Amy Tsai (蔡佩君) glides effortlessly on the surface of the water, her long, dyed-red hair swooshing in the wind. As the boat gains momentum, she rides her board towards and up the wake — the wave left behind by the moving boat — and launches herself into the air. It’s not the highest of jumps, but it’s graceful and her board barely makes a splash when she lands.
The teacher from Taipei was introduced to wakeboarding three years ago by a female friend. They drove to Breeze Canal (微風運河) in New Taipei City’s Luzhou District (蘆洲), the same place where the third annual Beaujax All Women’s Wakeboard Tournament (美傑仕盃女子滑水賽) on Sept. 3 and Sept. 4 was held. They had a mutual friend who wakeboarded.
“I didn’t think he was that hot,” Tsai laughs. “But once he got on his board and started doing flips, it’s like he transformed into this different, sexier person.”
Photo: Dana Ter, Taipei Times
She says that she took up the sport partly to “look cool and sexy,” and partly because she felt that she needed to get out and exercise more. She tried surfing a couple of times in Yilan County’s Wushi Harbor (烏石港), but waking up at 4am every weekend and making that journey took too much time. Wakeboarding was ideal. Breeze Canal is closer to Taipei and Tsai could still exercise and be outdoors.
CHANGING PERCEPTIONS, OVERCOMING FEARS
Beaujax co-founder Kimberly Chen (陳美彤) is glad to see more and more young Taiwanese women like Tsai wakeboarding. When she co-founded the tournament, Chen, who operates a cosmetics distribution company, wanted to promote a different version of feminine beauty.
Photo courtesy of Kimberly Chen
“Especially in Taiwan, where the news is fixated on pale, thin, rich women who wear luxury brands and go shopping, I felt even more compelled to say that it’s okay for women to also be tanned, strong and sporty,” Chen tells me.
The mother of two learned how to wakeboard three years ago with her then six-year-old daughter and they’ve been wakeboarding together almost every weekend ever since. When she launched the tournament in 2014, Chen chose to make it women’s only.
“It’s a very eye-catching sport because you get to wear a bikini and look good and exercise at the same time,” Chen says.
Photo: Dana Ter, Taipei Times
Chen is far from having a typical approach to water.
Tsai recalls how her parents never took her to the beach when she was young.
“They would watch the news and see that this kid drowned and then ban us from going to the ocean, saying that it was dangerous and haunted,” she says.
Unlike Tsai, who calls herself an “indoors girl” before she took up wakeboarding, Hsu I-ting (徐依婷), another Taipei native and competitor, has always enjoyed sports and the outdoors — though she stopped playing sports in junior high when her classmates teased her for her tanned skin.
Hsu says she might not fit the stereotypical idea of feminine beauty, but still feels comfortable in her own skin.
“People have told me that I don’t look like a lot of girls in the service industry because of my tan, but these days, they also say that being tanned suits my personality,” Hsu says.
Tsai agrees that there’s a growing acceptance in Taiwan of women with tanned skin and that it’s come to be associated with living a healthy, outdoorsy lifestyle.
“I didn’t know how to swim that well when I first started surfing and wakeboarding,” she says. “But I can swim a little better now.”
Not being able to swim isn’t as bizarre as it seems. The anti-tank barricades that dot the black sand beaches of Taiwan’s pristine east coast are a constant reminder that for nearly four decades, the coast was sealed off for military drills. Even after restrictions were largely lifted in 1987, Taiwanese rarely ventured out to the beaches.
Hsu confesses that she doesn’t really know how to swim despite wakeboarding for seven years. She says she was afraid of the water at first, but soon got used to it, and eventually overcame her fear — just as she overcame the fear of how others perceive her.
“I’m calm, I’m relaxed and I can forget about all the stress in work and in life,” Hsu says.
Until this summer, when the idea of hiking the length of the island first occurred to me, I didn’t even know that Cijin (旗津) had been a peninsula until 1967. That’s when diggers and dredgers severed Cijin from Taiwan’s “mainland,” because the authorities wished to create a southern entrance to Kaohsiung’s fast expanding port. The island is just under 9km long, but a bit of research quickly convinced me that a south-to-north trek wasn’t a good idea. The southern third of Cijin is dominated by container-lifting cranes, warehouses and other facilities off-limits to the public. Dunhe Street (敦和街) forms the boundary between
As if the climbs and views and snacks and companions of cycling in Taiwan aren’t sufficient, the GPS-generation of route-planners are now using apps such as Strava and Endomondo to create works of art as they ride. One such is nicknamed the Dove Road of Sijhih (汐鴿路), a 25km ride that follows the riverside bike path from the Nangang-Neihu Bridge (南湖橋) to New Taipei City’s Sijhih District (汐止), climbs around 400m up the Sijhih-Shiding Road (汐碇路), before dropping back down past Academia Sinica to generate a very dove-like pattern. Originally called Kippanas by indigenous Ketagalan people and transliterated into Hoklo (more commonly
Community-supported agriculture (CSA) is a way urban households can obtain healthy produce, while helping to build a more sustainable farming sector in Taiwan. King Hsin-i’s (金欣儀) transformation from advertising copywriter to social entrepreneur began in 2008, when she visited a rice farmer who practiced pesticide-free agriculture. “He explained that we have to leave space for other species. At the same time, I realized that while big companies have budgets to spread their messages, farmers have few chances to tell the public about their beautiful concepts,” she recalls. Inspired, she quit her job and traveled throughout rural Taiwan for a year. King went
If ever there was a reason to be inside on Mid-Autumn Festival, even for just an hour or so, while still celebrating the natural world, Cheng Tsung-lung (鄭宗龍) has provided one with his first full-length work for Cloud Gate Dance Theatre (雲門舞集) as artistic director, Sounding Light (定光). Judging by the excerpt performed for the press last week, Cheng shows he can be just as minimalistic as his mentor, troupe founder Lin Hwai-min (林懷民), while still forging his own unique path. Just as he did with last year’s Lunar Halo (毛月亮), his final work as director of Cloud Gate 2 (雲門2), Cheng