Sunday, April 10, 2011

Surfing and MuayThai with Vicky Chan

Surfing in Ireland - not too tropical ...

Surfing sells itself as the mellow sport while MuayThai screams full-contact. On the surface they don't have much in common but Vicky Chan uses one to prepare for the other and loves both.

She says: “I enjoy boxing, I love the people up there and I love the fitness of Thai Boxing. It really helps with surfing.”

She’s been learning MuayThai at Sitjaipetch Gym in Cork for nine years and surfing for two. Her favourite beach is Garrettstown but she loves travelling to Cornwall, Scotland and up to the northern Irish beaches.

Balancing Sport and Living

I asked which is harder, catching big waves or getting in the ring. Vicky didn’t hesitate: “If you miss the first wave, you can go again but not in a fight. I get stage-fright, it can be terrifying … scarier than the time I almost drowned.” That would be a ten for boxing then.

At 39 she feels it’s getting harder to keep both going to a high standard. Her surfer-husband would love her to give up the gym and concentrate on the beaches. Vicky says she has more responsibilities now, and when she has a fight everything else has to stop. This can make things difficult for people around her.

Cross-Training Works

Lots of surfers use yoga for their flexibility and strength.

Vicky says ThaiBoxing does the same for her. “The upper-body work complements the surfing. From training you get strong, flexible and have a good core. And you learn to block punches. So when a wave is crashing in on me, I know how to take the impact and how to recover.”

She says she’s seen surfers working with weights and pulleys to prepare for long paddles but she has all that from boxing training.

Vicky Chan before a MuayThai fight

Scary Moments

But in spite of her fears about boxing, some of her worst moments have been out on the water. Last summer she took the board right in her face, coming up covered in blood.

Laughing she says: “I was dazed but all I could think about was Jaws, I had this cartoon image of a shark in my head.”  Luckily real-life sharks are a rarity in Ireland.

On another busy day she was caught in a rip and flailed about for almost 90 minutes before crashing to safety on the rocks in the north of Garretstown. She remembers thinking the waves were too big for people to get out to her, and how relieved she was to flop onto the rocks.

Final Thoughts

“Choose? No, I couldn’t choose . I’m not brilliant at them really, but I enjoy both.”


Marie said...

It almost seems like the best form of cross-training is the one that you are drawn to. Choosing two sports you love is a sure-fire way to throw your heart into it. I have a lot of respect for women surfers. My brother used to be a surfer, and I live in New Zealand where we've got some amazing surf. I, myself, was never really a strong enough swimmer although I did have a go and I really respect those women who scratch out their own turf amongst the territorial boys.

niamh said...

@ Marie - A deep thought as always Marie! But yes, you're spot-on re loving your sports to get the most out of them. Guess that's true about most things. Still embarrassed I never made it to NZ when living in Sydney ... some day!