– Freediving Stories –

Naurarat Suksomstarn

by | Jan 26, 2018

This part of the blog is a space for listeners and fans of The Freedive Café to share their own freediving journeys with the world. Everyone is welcome to share their story, their thoughts, feelings and experience with our wonderful sport and pastime. If you would like to contribute, just get in touch with Donny.

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#38 – Mateusz Malina – Part One

#38 – Mateusz Malina – Part One

Mateusz Malina started diving in late 2008, but already knew that it would become his destiny seven years earlier after trying it in a pool with his friends. His achievements are too numerous to list them all, he has set multiple world records in dynamic with fins...

#37 – Leigh & Bill Baker

#37 – Leigh & Bill Baker

It is my pleasure to bring Leigh and Bill Baker, Vertical Blue medics, into The Freedive Café today, to find out about them, to find out what their job entails at the comepetition. How do they deal with diver's health problems, and how are they prepared for the worst...

#36 – Adam Stern #2

#36 – Adam Stern #2

Today's guest is none other than Mr Adam Stern, the very first returning guest to The Freedive Café. It was around 9 months ago I first interviewed Adam and if you would like to learn more about him and his discovery of freediving and his views on training and...

#35 – Alexey Molchanov

#35 – Alexey Molchanov

Alexey Molchanov took up freediving as a teenager, motivated by his legendary mother Natalia Molchanova, with whom he trained. He has risen to the very top of the competitive arena, and holds the world record in CWT with a huge dive to 129m. Many other World Records...

#34 – Carlos Coste

#34 – Carlos Coste

Carlos Coste is from Caracas, Venezuela and now lives on the island of Bonaire in the Dutch Caribbean. He started freediving in 1997, and has since achieved 12 world records. Most notably, Carlos was the first person to officially surpass 100m in CWT and FIM. An...

#33 – Kate Middleton

#33 – Kate Middleton

Kate Middleton is a Champion Freediver, Yoga Teacher-Trainer and co-founder of Gili Yoga and Freedive Gili. She has set 18 National Records for NZ, dives to over 97 meters in Constant Weight and is Vice-World Champion in Free Immersion. She is a student and...

#32 – Emma Farrell

#32 – Emma Farrell

Emma Farrell is the author of the beautiful book One Breath: A reflection on Freediving. She is a major contributor to the development of AIDA and other education systems as author of their education materials, and is dedicated to making freediving accessible to...

#31 – Gus Kreivenas – Part Two

#31 – Gus Kreivenas – Part Two

Gus Kreivenas is a rising star in the freediving scene. He's originally from Lithuania and over the last decade has been developing himself into an elite freediver, focusing on awareness, sensitivity and focus to bring himself to this level in the safest and most...

#30 – Gus Kreivenas – Part One

#30 – Gus Kreivenas – Part One

Gus Kreivenas is a rising star in the freediving scene. He's originally from Lithuania and over the last decade has been developing himself into an elite freediver, focusing on awareness, sensitivity and focus to bring himself to this level in the safest and most...

#29 – Walid Boudhiaf

#29 – Walid Boudhiaf

Walid Boudhiaf is a French-Tunisian freediver, currently living in Colombia and the Caribbean. He has achieved a depth of 116m in competition in FIM, and was ranked 2nd in the 2017 world ranking for that discipline. He also runs the Nirvana Oceanquest Freediving...

As I came up from a 50 metres swim on one breath-hold at one of the biggest swimming pools in London, I came across a very friendly face that belonged to a seemingly healthy and smart looking gentleman sat on the edge of the pool with a very relaxed attitude. This however, did not strike me as much as the fact that he was also equipped with fins, a diving mask and a snorkel like myself. I eventually found out that he was also an avid freediver as well and we took it upon ourselves to be training buddies for pool sessions. Then he said to me after a couple of dives together “Naura, you should go and listen to this podcast called The Freedive Café.” and that is how I came across this space and wrote my freediving story for the blog.

A Little About Myself…

I have been a photographer for many years. Anything photography-based I will always be up for the job, from fashion weeks to shooting hundreds of shoes. In recent years however, I have been trying to focus more on art projects and exhibiting or selling my work but then I get too protective of it and I’m never be able to sell them, so I go back to the commercial side of it again.

I’ve always known from a very young age what I wanted to do. For example, I got into music when I was 5. I was also a musician back in my early twenties. I did that for five years before I decided to move to London to further my photography career and since then I’ve always been involved in the creative industry. My love for the water only developed in recent years though, despite always spending a lot of my time in the water, and this is because I was diagnosed with asthma when I was 12 and my doctor told me to go swimming to toughen up my lungs and that one day I will grow out of it eventually.

Sadly, I never did. I still have both my brown and blue inhalers close at hand just in case I get asthma attacks, I remember clearly a severe episode I had while I was working late in my office. Luckily, my boyfriend at the time was there with me and took me to the nearest hospital. I was breathing pure oxygen for several minutes, otherwise I would have run out of breath and probably dropped dead. It was only then that I realised how serious my asthma was. So I always make sure to have 3-4 swimming sessions per week. Not only because it is good for my lungs, but it’s actually the only form of cardio exercise I can do as I cannot run or cycle too fast otherwise I’d be down on the ground panting for breath.

Swimming for me became like a routine and it’s just something I have to make time for and I find myself getting very cranky if I haven’t been in a pool for some time, and when I get angry I just storm off for a swim to cool myself down. It never occurred to me that these water sessions were actually healing me both mentally and physically until…

Naurarat Suksomstarn (left)

The Loss of My Father…

At the end of January 2017, just a couple of weeks after my birthday, my beloved father peacefully passed away. It was, however, abrupt and unexpected, as no one expected that he was just going to go into a coma and never come back from it. It was especially quite dramatic on my part because I was rejected a visa two years prior and stuck on an appeal case, unable to travel until I got my visa back. I will not go into details about this matter but it happened right after David Cameron’s second term and Britain was trying to decrease immigration numbers – and I got unlucky.

This meant I was stuck in the country during my father’s last days. I managed to pressure the Home Office to expedite my visa with help from my local MP, so I was cleared to fly out just in time for his cremation ceremony… literally “just in time”. This event has scarred me badly. How the system we live under can mess up our personal lives in this way is beyond my comprehension and this led me to have a mental break-down and I lost my way for the whole first half of the year 2017.

I spent most of 2017 being angry and spiteful until it all built up and exploded one evening. I booked a flight back home to Thailand with no return ticket. And it is there that I discovered the wonderful world of freediving.

Initially, I was planning to continue my scuba diving with an advanced course, but I got talking to an old friend I met in London before I enrolled for any scuba courses, and he managed to talk me into taking a freediving course instead. For someone who’s got asthma, I wouldn’t in a million years have thought I could hold my breath longer than half a minute, but for some reason, I remembered thinking, sod it, I’ve got nothing to lose and life is too short to be just contemplating something as appealing as this.

The next minute all my bags were packed and I was heading to Koh Tao where my friend was working as a freediving instructor at Apnea Total.

Ko Tao is a very small and compact island situated in the beautiful Gulf of Thailand. Despite its reputation as being quite touristy, especially amongst divers, because of its coral reefs, it is actually one of the further islands from the mainland and quite difficult (annoying) to get to compared to other islands such as Ko Samui or Ko Pha-ngan.

I had my first freediving course there with my younger sister, as we decided it was going to become our new thing together to deal with the sadness of losing our dad. I felt quite nervous at first even though I had scuba diving experience, but this was something completely different. I just couldn’t picture myself not breathing underwater and diving to 20 metres. I got so nervous that I pumped my asthma inhaler without even having an attack.

Sairee Beach, Ko Tao

It was a very strange sensation at first, but I fell in love with it instantly. My first few hours underwater were mainly spent experimenting with these new sensations; the weightlessness, the contractions and all those initial fears you get from being in an unknown space, but like every new freediver, I couldn’t get past a certain depth on those 2 days of training, which for me was around 12-15 metres. So I got certified with a PB of 15 metres but it was quite a struggle for me and I could not really say that I was 100% relaxed with that dive.

That was going to be it for me as at that point I had been suffering from the flu for three weeks and I thought it would be best just to go back to the UK and do a bit of work to save up for my next mission in the near future. However I could not stop thinking about freediving. I dreamt about being in the water every night. I was either on Youtube, or looking for books about freediving just to pass the time because I couldn’t go swimming because of the illness. Until one day I had enough of the day dreaming and made a last-minute booking for some training sessions (I wasn’t confident enough to head over to the advanced course as I felt like I needed some more hours in the water) this time on the well known party island of Koh Pha-ngan.

Koh Pha-ngan is very well known for its full-moon and jungle parties but I think many people might not know that there is also a quieter side to the island where there are a lot of yoga classes going on, too. And here, as James Nestor would put it, is where I triggered ‘The Master Switch’. Again, I came out here with my sister, and together we booked a couple of coaching sessions, starting off with a static-clinic course which is where you are trained to just relax in a pool and hold your breath without any swimming or moving.

Before hitting the pool we did some breathing-up and did a couple of dry breath-holds in which I couldn’t exceed 1.30 minutes as my contractions hit pretty hard. By the time we got in the pool that evening I was shivering and did not feel like I wanted to hold my breath any more for the day. However something inside me was saying otherwise. As I submerged, aiming for my first PB, all sorts were going on inside my head as I was trying to relax and my first contraction kicked in so early, I didn’t think it had even been a minute yet. But then with the guidance from my amazing instructor, Lukas Grabowski, founder of Apnea Koh Pha-ngan, I managed to calm myself down and I fought that nasty urge to breath for the next 2 minutes.

Naura & her sister…

The next morning we took a boat out to do some coaching sessions at Sail rock. From the surface it’s just a somewhat mundane rock smack between Ko Tao and Ko Pa-Ngan but as soon as you enter the water there is another planet full of life down there. So much so that I forgot that I wasn’t breathing and I forgot about my fears and problems because I was just too busy being hypnotised by this whole new environment. It is here that I can fully say that I became comfortable underwater as up until that point it was more of a curiosity mixed with nervousnes. But after that two full minutes fighting the contractions in my static training, my brain and my body were synchronised once again.

I came back to London straight after that trip and all I have wanted to do since is dive and train my body and mind to be prepared for my next adventures. Whatever bad thoughts or negativities I have had that were going to distract my peace of mind, I cut them out of my life rather than dwell in them like I used to. I managed to join a freediving club in London where we meet every Thursday nights to dive together at a pool in the beautiful neighbourhood of Richmond (one hour train ride from where I live). It is here where I started to learn the pool disciplines. I only discovered freediving in October 2017 and already I have met so many beautiful people that have inspired me on this new journey.

What Happens Next…?

Alas, after being so lost, living my life with zero purpose for such a long time, I have finally found something I want to live for. My future plan for freediving is to take myself to the instructor level. I plan to dedicate more of my time for freediving (maybe all of it one day). However, my love for the arts, photography and music still remain, and I am trying to find a way to combine them all with freediving, be it training for deep relaxation (music can help) or art projects that I am currently pitching for governmental funding for Thailand’s upcoming, first ever Art Beinnale which will be held in the coastal town of Krabi in the year 2019.

My project will involve me cleaning the ocean, as well as using my work to inspire a cautious mind about the use of plastic and how it is affecting the ocean and its inhabitants.

Naurarat Suksomstarn

Many thanks to Naura for sharing her story. If you would like to share yours just get in touch through the contact page or search for Donny Mac on Facebook. Peace.

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