While we were planning our next surfing trip, one of our friends suggested an article from Time Magazine about surfing in Taiwan. http://style.time.com/2012/11/22/everybody-go-surfing-surfing-jialeshui/ Prior to the article, we didn’t even know surfing existed in Taiwan. To our surprise, the article not only talks about how Taiwan has great surf but also introduces a world ranking professional Taiwanese female surfer, Wenling Chou. For many of you who may not be familiar with Asian culture, traditional Asians, specifically East Asians, prefer women to have light skin and a soft body tone as signs of beauty and good virtue. Sports like surfing can cause women to have darker complexions and muscular bodies, and are not well promoted in the culture. That is why we were very excited to read about this high-ranking professional woman surfer from East Asia, Taiwan, where surfing is not well known.
Wenling Chou, also known as Tim-Mei, is from southern Taiwan. She grew up in the small beach town of HengChung, but didn’t pick up surfing until the age of 17 after watching the surf girl-craze film, Blue Crush. Unlike other professional surfers, she was completely self-trained, because there was no established surf culture in Taiwan. At first, it was hard for a country girl to understand the world of surfing competition when she first entered the ASP World Competition at 2010. Many of her Taiwanese friends didn’t understand what surfing was and why any girl would want to surf, let alone compete in any dangerous sporting events. Throughout her surfing career, she never had a coach. With no support or money, she had to work extra hard to earn every penny in order to travel the world and compete by herself. In the end, it was her determination and jovial personality that won her many titles and many friends while on tour. Her unique story has led to many interviews with journalists overseas who have been intrigued and inspired by her experiences so far. It might be Wenling’s destiny to become a teacher[i]. It was her parent’s dream for her to earn a stable income by being a school teacher, but surfing has given her something she can call entirely her own. Due to Wenling’s fame and diplomatic attitude, she has become a self-made ambassador of Taiwan, teaching foreigners about Taiwanese culture and tourism. Since we first read about her in Time Magazine’s article in 2013, we’ve read many more articles about her and her love for Taiwanese surfing. Her passion and voice within interviews extends broadly outside of Taiwan. Her love for the Taiwanese people, its culture and surfing is why she started the website http://www.wesurftaiwan.com. Like the name of the website, “we surf Taiwan,” she documents how Taiwanese surfing and other adventure sports are intertwined within traditional Taiwanese culture. In her own words, Wenling states, “When I first started surfing, I just wanted to have fun. When surfing became natural for me, I started to challenge myself in what I call the second stage of my surfing passion. Now I am at my third stage where I feel I have this responsibility to tell the world how great surfing is in Taiwan. Taiwan is such a beautiful country with ancient Chinese culture, unique Taiwanese cuisine, and endless outdoor beauty, due to Taiwan’s geographic landscape. There is so much variety in adventurous and extreme sports, all within this small, affordable and friendly island with great Taiwanese people!”
When we met Wenling during Chinese New Year in 2014 for our Surf Mei Mei interview, she told us about her dream and mission to make Taiwan a better-known tourist destination. What we are wondering is why Wenling Chou, an internationally ranked, national champion, does not have any sponsorships nationally or internationally like other professional athletes? Surfing is a fast growing, multi-billion dollar industry and we wonder how many other international athletes are out there, yet to be discovered in Taiwan? Wenling is a professional athlete who makes women all over the world proud to be a woman. She’s proud of her Taiwanese surfing culture, and we’re proud to have her as a Surf Mei Mei.
[i] She has a bachelor degree in teaching English before she became a professional surfer
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