WA­TER SPORTS

The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

WA­TER sports are still rel­a­tively rare in Myan­mar, but that hasn’t stopped Phone Kyaw Moe Myint, the undis­puted Jet­surf-rac­ing king of Inya Lake, from get­ting his spray in.

The 31-year-old ex­treme sports junkie and man­ager of the Myan­mar Yacht­ing Fed­er­a­tion rep­re­sented Myan­mar at the 2016 Mo­to­surf World Cup in China ear­lier this month, tak­ing home third place in the B di­vi­sion for Jet­surf. A new sport that re­sem­bles other rac­ing sports such as mo­tocross or auto rac­ing, jet­surf has one de­fin­i­tive char­ac­ter­is­tic: Ath­letes com­pete on spe­cially de­signed, mo­torised surf­boards.

“I first dis­cov­ered Jet­surf on Youtube,” Phone Kyaw Moe Myint said, de­scrib­ing what brought him into the ad­mit­tedly niche sport. “Ini­tially I was sav­ing up money to buy a truck to help carry my surf­boards to the beach, but when I saw the Youtube videos of what the Jet­surf was ca­pa­ble of, I was dead set on buy­ing it.”

The boards, pro­duced by a US com­pany named Jet­Surf, are billed as the “only mo­torised wa­ter­craft that can be car­ried by an in­di­vid­ual per­son”. Weigh­ing just 14.5 kilo­grams, each one is pow­ered by a small twostroke en­gine that en­ables rid­ers to carve in and of ob­sta­cle cour­ses with­out re­ly­ing on the wind or tide. As they’ve grown in pop­u­lar­ity, en­thu­si­asts in the Czech Repub­lic be­gan or­gan­is­ing Jet­surf races, and in 2013, the first world cham­pi­onships were held un­der the Fed­er­a­tion In­ter­na­tionale du Surf Mo­torise um­brella or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Phone Kyaw Moe Myint, who al­ready holds two South­east Asia Games gold medals for sail­ing, got his board in late De­cem­ber 2015, build­ing on a per­sonal pas­sion for ex­treme sports.

“I be­gan sail­ing at the age of nine, and as I knew my sail­ing ca­reer was go­ing to end af­ter the 2013 SEA Games – not re­tired yet – I even­tu­ally started get­ting into surf­ing, wind­surf and kite­board­ing,” he said. “I have al­ways loved the wa­ter and need to be do­ing some sort of ac­tiv­ity on it.”

Surf­ing led to Jet­surf­ing, which he prac­tices two to three times a week at Inya Lake. When he heard about the Mo­to­surf World Cup, he quickly ap­plied and be­gan ramp­ing up his prac­tice sched­ule.

Held on Septem­ber 17 and 18, the tour­na­ment fea­tured 25 par­tic­i­pants from a widely var­ied list of coun­tries, in­clud­ing the Czech Repub­lic, Canada, Slo­vakia, Myan­mar and Hong Kong, as well as host China. As the last stop in the World Se­ries – like F1 rac­ing, the cir­cuit in­cludes many na­tions – Wuzhizhou is­land off the coast of Hainan prov­ince of­fered Phone Kyaw Moe Myint a chance to de­but in in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion and rub shoul­ders with some of the best in the world.

In ini­tial trial runs, he qual­i­fied at 11th place, which should have been good enough to get him into the A di­vi­sion. But af­ter the heats were con­tested, he fell to the B di­vi­sion where he even­tu­ally placed third.

De­spite the strong show­ing, Phone Kyaw Moe Myint left China un­recog­nised by tour­na­ment or­gan­is­ers.

“For some un­known rea­son, I was not given a podium fin­ish,” he said af­ter the race, adding that the first place in the B di­vi­sion was given to a rider from the A di­vi­sion who had not even com­peted in the B di­vi­sion fi­nals. “It was China rules, and al­though I com­plained to the race di­rec­tor that it was not fair, noth­ing was done to change the re­sults. I didn’t go home with a prize I be­lieve I de­served.”

The sur­prise end­ing to his trip has not de­terred his pas­sion, how­ever, and Phone Kyaw Moe Myint says he is de­ter­mined to con­tinue com­pet­ing in the World Se­ries next year.

“My goal is to be­come Asia’s best rider,” he said.

For now, he’s back to work at the Sail­ing Club, coach­ing and train­ing kids on the week­end and sneak­ing in rides on his Jet­Surf when he has the time. Though he ad­mits Myan­mar is not quite ready for wa­ter sports just yet – cul­tur­ally and fi­nan­cially, as boards cost be­tween US$14,000 and $25,000 – he says he is ex­cited to con­tinue rep­re­sent­ing Myan­mar on the global cir­cuit.

“The best part was sim­ply be­ing there to com­pete and rep­re­sent my coun­try,” he said. “I have never met any­one with a Jet­Surf un­til now, and it was so cool to meet other en­thu­si­asts. It re­ally is a life­style, and with my as­pi­ra­tions to be­come Myan­mar’s first ex­treme ath­lete, I love be­ing in this type of en­vi­ron­ment.”

Photos: Supplied

Phone Kyaw Moe Myint poses af­ter a trial run at the 2016 Mo­to­surf World Cup in Wuzhizhou, China, on Septem­ber 17.

Phone Kyaw Moe Myint glides through the ob­sta­cle course on his Jet­Surf board.

Jet­Surf boards sit in the shade as their rid­ers wait for their turn in the wa­ter.

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