Overcoming the odds in surf ski race

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 November, 2011, 12:00am


A group of teenage boys from the Hong Kong Sea School took up the challenge of the Steelcase Dragon Run, an annual surf ski boat race, last Saturday.

Form Five students Li Yin and Chan Man-chun, both 16, were among those who tackled the demanding 24-kilometre course from Clearwater Bay in Sai Kung to Stanley Main Beach on Hong Kong Island.

Man-chun completed the race alone, but he almost gave up in the middle of the event. 'The wind was weak and the water current was unfavourable for me. It kept pushing me to the side when I wanted to go forward. I put in a lot of effort for little progress,' Chan said. But he kept going and finished the race in two hours, 10 minutes, 59 seconds, and was ranked 70th overall. 'The feeling is tremendous when you overcome the obstacles and finish,' he said.

Yin competed in a two-man surf ski, teaming with Rene Appel, who is Hong Kong's head windsurfing coach. Appel trained Olympic windsurfing gold medallist Lee Lai-shan. Before the race, Yin and Appel trained for about two weeks. Yin said he was not under too much pressure in the race. 'Coach Rene controlled the rudder at the front and I just had to synchronise our paddling. He is more experienced, makes important decisions and I just follow,' Yin said.

The pair came second in the two-man crews and ranked 25th overall. Their time was one hour, 50 minutes, 44 seconds.

Man-chun and Yin took up the sport three years ago. 'When I was in Form Two, my school trained us in a rubber boat for canoeing. After learning some basics of paddling and balancing, we switched to surf ski boats,' Yin said. At the beginning, he found it hard to stop being tipped out of the boat.

The Dragon Run event also has a shorter Chicken Run for less-experienced paddlers. Man-chun, Yin and other teammates took part in the Chicken Run for three years.

But the boys told their principal they wanted to have a more exciting experience so they competed in the Dragon Run this year. More than 130 teams took part, with many from overseas.

The Hong Kong Sea School is near Stanley Main Beach. As well as studying for the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education, students from the school also have water sports training in their timetable. 'We don't have a school dismissal time since we are at a boarding school,' Yin said. 'We may also have extra training in the water after lessons in the afternoon.'

The boys usually go back to their families at weekends, but Yin did not go home for two weekends as he prepared for the Dragon Race and another rowing race.

'I think surf ski racing is a unique sport,' Yin said. 'I won't say it is my favourite water sport, but every experience in the boat is something special which I can't get from any other sport.'

For details and results, visit http://www.thedragonrun.com.hk/