TAIWAN – Emerging Nation
From: Mulwala, N.S.W. Australia
Former Competitive Barefoot Waterskier, Coach.
How I ended up connected to Taiwan – Leigh Wyatt :
In 2009 I was returning back to skiing after my 3rd shoulder reconstruction and was lucky enough to win the Australian Mens 2 Australian National title. During the competition I was chatting with Max Kirwan Snr (who is a family friend and has known me all my life) Max was also with another gentleman who loves barefoot skiing, Mr Jean-Nan Chou (Joe) from Taiwan. He was living in Melbourne while his daughter was studying at university there. During the Saturday of the titles the weather was extremely hot, so I grabbed some bottles of water and set up a table with an umbrella by the water for Mr Kirwan & Mr Chou to stay comfortable and enjoy the skiing. Mr Chou was appreciative of this gesture (I would later find out that Taiwanese culture holds the older generation in very high regard) It turned out that Mr Chou was living only 10 minutes away from me in Melbourne, so I picked him up a few times and took him out for a barefoot.
Returning to work after a weeks annual leave to attend the Australian Nationals I was made redundant. This was a huge shock to me. About 1 week later Mr Chou called me and asked if I could attend a meeting with him. To my surprise he asked if I would be willing to coach the Taiwan team for the World Games.
I had no idea that the World Games where being held in Taiwan that year. As they would be the host nation they wanted to have representatives in all events. As I had no job and I have a passion for skiing I happily accepted the 3 month coaching position.
So off I went to Taiwan. I discovered that Oscar Foot Mann had already been to Taiwan previously and coached back in about 2007. Oscar had helped the Taiwanese to relocate a Barefoot Sanger from New Zealand to Taiwan.
The Taiwan waterski association had chosen who would represent the country in wakeboarding and tournament, however they had some skiers that still wished to ski for the country and they got given an opportunity to train with me for 2 weeks and than they cut the number of team barefooters to 1 man and 1 woman. This would allow us more time 1 on 1 and ensure they would be the best barefooters they could be in a short space of time.
There are 2 main locations for skiing in Taiwan. Just out to the north west of the capitol city (Taipei) they have a rowing course that we can have shared time slots with the rowers and dragon boating.
This waterway is looked after by the government and has full time lifesavers on duty. The water quality is cleaner than most lakes I have skied on here in Aus. Also in the south they developed an old muddy disgusting lake in Kaohsiung. This lake was drained and they spent over 2.5 Million US dollars to have it ready for hosting the waterskiing and canoe polo at the World Games.
Once I had been in Taiwan for around about 10 days, I found that they had 2 ski clubs operating at the site in Taipei. I would hang out on my days off at the ski site and coach everyone and anyone for free. Now 5 years later they have developed a cable ski park at the Kaohsiung lake (lotus pond)
Although I was only supposed to be in Taiwan for 3 months, I loved my time there so much that I moved there for a full year so that I could try and keep developing the sport and I had become interested in learning more of the language and culture. To pay my way I worked as an English teacher (I failed English at school HAHAHA).