I kept going. The butterfly stroke was even sweeter and smoother in the Indian Ocean as compared to a swimming pool. The ocean breeze was penetrating through my brown eyes into my mind, stilling it. Peace of mind. The two-feet waves were carrying me gently, as if I was a fluffy feather, not an 80-kilo man who had just devoured buffet breakfast with passion and urgency.It was the first day of a marine ecosystem conference that I was attending and I had decided to squeeze in a swim before the plenary session.
I kept going, without a care in the world. After almost twenty minutes, a particularly high wave reminded me that I wasn't a marine mammal, jolting my mind back to earth. I suddenly realized that I must have swam rather deep into the ocean. A quick glance behind me proved that indeed, I had wandered too far. The Indian Ocean Beach Resort that I was staying in had become so small that I could barely see the people on the beach. My instincts pressed on the panic button but my mind reminded them that panic doesn’t mix well with ocean waves. So I took a U-turn engaged a higher swimming gear and started racing back to the shoreline.
The ocean has a unique ability to trigger utter relaxation that erases time and distance.
According to Richard Shuster a clinical psychologist, ‘staring at the ocean actually changes our brain waves’ frequency and puts us into a mild meditative state.’ Staring at the traffic jam or those concrete walls outside your office doesn’t have a similar effect. That ebb and flow of waves also relaxes our brain. No wonder I kept going for more than a kilometre without realizing it.
The gentle roar of the waves is like a balm trickling into the mind and leaving in its trail a soothing effect. The sight of those waves, dancing to the tune of the breeze, reflected the sunset’s sleepy rays, pours into you yet another balm that goes straight to the heart.
But at night, these waves wear a different personality altogether. Just ask twenty-four year old Fauz from Kiunga, the northern-most part of Kenya’s coast.
Many people know the roar of a lion but few have heard of, or listened to the raucous roar of a night-time ocean wave. It is unrelenting. Think of a sneeze that keeps on coming. That’s how that roar sounds and feels like. It is scary. Think back to that lion, charging at you for seven straight hours. Non-stop. Like a train whose brakes have failed. That is how the waves behave during most nights when Fauz is out fishing.
Indian Ocean has been Fauz's constant companion for the two decades he has been in this world. But unlike domestic and international tourists who only know the serenity of the Ocean’s shallow waters, Fauz knows the roaring, raging side of the deep ocean.
Tonight, he is back in the deeps, together with three other fishermen. He sits at the front of the boat, eyes alert hands tugging at the net. A wave roars and slams into the boat, sending it to its crest where it lingers for a few moments before plunging back for several metres. All this time, Fauz continues holding the net tightly. He can feel the fish fill it. This fills his young heart with joy so loud that it dims the waves’ roar.
Unfortunately, the artisanal, small scale fishery that most fishermen at the coast engage in shall never roar economically. They are doomed to the uncertainities of artisanal fishery. If they only they could venture into the truly deeper waters, they would discover the Ocean's generosity. But they can't plough into those deep waters because it takes a deep sea fishing vessel to do so.
Thankfully, they may just be able to do so soon. World Bank has given the Kenya Government a concessional loan worth Ksh10 billion (US$93.65m) to promote investment and good governance in the fisheries sector. A substantial chunk of these funds will be used to move 13,000 small scale fishers from artisanal, shallow water fishing to the deeper, more generous waters.
Young fishers like Fauz deserve to earn a decent livelihood from the ocean whose waves they ride fearlessly and tirelessly. Lets help them to go to the deeps and smile all the way to the bank.
Indeed, that roar of waves, shouldn’t just soothe the mind or excite the heart, it should also create thousands of jobs.
In the words of Bwak the Bantu Poet, ‘those who ride a wave consistently soar to a better place.’ A better place where peace of mind and jobs reigns supreme. Lets find that place and unlock the blue economy that lives there.