Fri, Jun 04, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Expat completes kayak circuit

FOR THE ENVIRONMENT Canadian Mark Western raised NT$2.1 million for earth-friendly charities by paddling around Taiwan in 34 days, though the going was sometimes tough

By Max Woodworth  /  STAFF REPORTER

Mark Western walks onto the beach at Baishawan, Taipei County, yesterday, after paddling around the island in a kayak.

PHOTO: MAX WOODWORTH, TAIPEI TIMES

Canadian expatriate Mark Western paddled onto the beach at Baishawan, Taipei County, yesterday, completing a 1,100km tour of Taiwan in a sea kayak that raised more than NT$2.1 million for local environmental groups.

Western finished the coastal tour, called the Paddle Taiwan Project, in 34 days, four days longer than originally planned due to a five-day pause in his trip caused by a typhoon off the island's southeast coast.

His tour marks the first time anyone has circled Taiwan in a sea kayak.

"This trip was one of my dreams. I hope that people will always remember to keep their dreams with them," a fit and upbeat Western said to a crowd of Hess English School kindergartners and teachers who had gathered in the drizzle to greet him as he pulled ashore.

Western began his journey on May 1 from Baishawan and traveled south along the west coast, rounding the southern tip of the island at Kenting and returning north along the east coast. During his trip Western faced strong currents, strayed into a military exercise zone and endured a month in the unpredictable weather and sea conditions off Taiwan's coast. He also confounded coast guard personnel unaccustomed to the sight of a foreigner pulling into harbor on a sea kayak.

Otherwise, the tour took place without incident and Western said he had the opportunity to witness first-hand the pollution and damage caused by development along some parts of the coast and the spectacular natural beauty of other sections.

The project, he said, was initiated to raise funds for non-governmental organizations engaged in coastal environment conservation, as well as to boost the sport of sea kayaking in a nation where the vast majority of people live within an hour of the coast but are mostly unfamiliar with the sport.

"A lot of people think it's dangerous, but it's actually really just a lot of fun," he said.

The Paddle Taiwan Project will distribute funds evenly to the Society of Wilderness and the Kuroshio Ocean Education Foundation for beach clean-up activities, a pollution monitoring system and open seminars to teach the public about Taiwan's coastal environment.

The latest project came four years after Western, a 12-year resident of Taiwan, initiated a similar charity event called Taiwalk, which involved walking around Taiwan and raised over NT$4 million for orphans.

Donations to the Paddle Taiwan Project can be made through its Web site at http://www.paddle-taiwan.com.

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