Q: What initially brought you to Taiwan?
I met Jahfong in Sweden on a Point65 international dealers’ event where everyone paddled and camped together for a couple of days in the archipelago. As the owner of a kayak business he came with the Taiwan Point65 importer primarily to translate. That was in 2008. Jahfong liked my paddling and teaching style and approached me a couple of years later to invite me to instruct in Taiwan.
Q: What was your impression of paddling in Asia and Taiwan before going?
The only paddling I had done in Asia up until then had been around Shanghai and Ningbo in China, and of course you can’t get any perspective on a continent from paddling just one or two locations. I really had no idea what to expect of Taiwan and went with an open mind.
Q: What most surprised you when you first went and paddled there?
I suppose I imagined Taiwan to be more industrial and built up than it is. True there are areas like that, but the south, east and north coast are certainly not. The warm Kuroshio Current that flows along the east colors the sea a startling clear blue while the mountains climb steeply and green up from the coast. Add the fishing villages and offshore islands and you have a magical area to explore.
Q: What do you enjoy most about paddling in Taiwan (that makes it unlike other paddling destinations)?
When the light shines through the water in a cave on the Washington coast, it glows green. In Taiwan it is a wonderful blue. Look down into the water around the rocks and you can see the flashes of neon blue and orange from the tropical fish and you can see the coral heads through the clear warm water. On land, the tropical and subtropical vegetation, the fruits, the colorful temples and the fishing harbors with restaurants serving the best fresh fish…
Q: How would you explain sea kayaking's growth in Taiwan?
Until recently access to the sea for recreation was restricted, so kayaking was limited to lakes and rivers. With a more open attitude now the authorities are trying to promote safe use of the sea to a population that has largely grown up unfamiliar with it. Sea kayaking is growing as a result, and the safety in learning is something that Jahfong with his training is very attuned to and he has done a lot to promote it, working closely with the authorities.
Q: How are you excited to see the local kayaking community evolve and grow?
I really enjoy watching kayaking communities develop, seeing skill levels rise, and paddlers awareness increasing. It’s wonderful when people are hungry to learn, and eager to put time into it. Seeing some of the same people year after year and watching their skills and abilities grow is exciting to me.
Q: What are your favorite spots to paddle there?
I really enjoy islands, and some of the islands off Taiwan are very intriguing. I love Green Island for its people, Orchid Island for its rock formations, native culture and tropical conditions and Pengue for its corals.