Sport in Thailand

Extreme Sports in Thailand

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Extreme Sports in Thailand
Extreme Sports in Thailand
Extreme Sports in Thailand

Just how extreme is this?

The only thing more amazing than the rapid development of extreme sports in Thailand is its roots. Thai extreme sports didn’t emerge from grunge culture or a pursuit of hedonism and excess, but from a gauntlet laid down to society’s youth at risk – those dabbling with drugs, underperforming at school or otherwise losing their way. The challenge was for change… The challenge was for greatness.

The man in charge of extreme sports in Thailand is the same man responsible for promoting them here in the first place – Khun Apichat Rutnin, former drugs rehabilitation officer, gymnast, and Secretary General of the Extreme Sports Association in Thailand. To him extreme sports represented an opportunity to challenge rule breakers to push the envelope and in 1994 he scoured department stores and other youth hangouts to invite youngsters to take part in informal in-line skating programs. Whether slum kids or middle-class errant youth, it made no difference – these kids got the right kind of addiction and with it the life changing drive and self-imposed discipline that comes from a passion for something good.

Fast forward to 1998 and the Asian X-games were held in Phuket. Out of nowhere, Thailand established its credentials as an extreme sporting nation and began a series of achievements that saw the country’s extreme sportsmen and women travel the world in pursuit of competition and victory.

Today, the success of Khun Apichat’s programs for the young at risk have guaranteed their continuation, but with 2,000 youngsters on his books, things obviously haven’t stopped there.

“These days our focus has changed,” suggested Khun Apichat. “Thailand’s extreme sportsmen and women are at a level where they are competing with the best of the best. Our emphasis now is on ‘sporting excellence’ – on ensuring extreme sports in Thailand keep developing at the rate they have over the last years. What we need now are people with skills and experience willing to devote their time and energy to help us get to the next level and further.”

And that’s where you might come in…

If you have the skills and experience to offer (and you will know if you are good enough), this is a chance for you to turn your trip to Thailand into a genuine contribution both to extreme sports and the development of Thailand’s youth. You will teach them the tricks you have learned and also pass on English language skills. In return you will learn Thai and get an insight into the Thai way of life few will ever experience.

At this stage the details have not been hammered out, but it might be possible to assist those able to stay for an extended period with visa arrangements, but even a couple of days will do. Although free accommodation won’t ever be part of the package, it may be possible to arrange home stays for those offering training at centers outside Bangkok.

Think about this… does it get much better? At this stage we’d like to hear from people who are planning a trip to Thailand and feel they might have enough to offer to help out. Use the form below to let us know when you might be heading out this way.

Click here to contact the Thai Extreme Sports Association of Thailand.

More than Muay Thai

Aside from Thailand’s obsession with English Premier League football and the ever popular “Muay Thai” (Thai Boxing), the Kingdom has a variety of home grown “sports” enjoyed by Thais in their own very special way. 

takrawTakraw

Said to have originated in southern Thailand, which is probably why the Malays play it too, this competitive and truly acrobatic team sport involves knocking a light weight ball, made from Ratan, back and forth over a badminton net. This highly skillful game is all about speed, acrobatics and for me, the defiance of gravity as aside from their hands players can use any other part of the body to keep the ball up and launch it back over the net. Matrix style moves are common place as players often somersault in the air to kick the ball. Friendly “knock ups” can be seen everywhere with players standing around in circles, heading, kicking and keeping the ball aloft. However, if you want to see some serious bouts, visit either the National Stadium or the Hua Mak Stadium.

Kitefighting in ThailandKite Fighting

Kite flying, “chak-wow jula” is enjoyed not only in Bangkok, but all over the Kingdom between March to May each year. However, during this period the serious business of “kite fighting” competition in Bangkok is focused on Sanam Luang (the large open area beside the Grand Palace) where at weekends spectators will see amazingly hand crafted kites of various shapes, sizes, colours and designs in aerial combat. Funnily enough, these airborne battles match “male” and “female” kites up against each other with the winner knocking their opponent out of the sky! 

fish_fightingFish Fighting

The beautiful, but raving mad, Siamese fighting fish, locally known as “Pla Gat”, has been cross bred so much that aside from its stumpy looking fins and the fact that it will insanely attack its own reflection, it is not easy to identify one from an ordinary fighting fish. Nevertheless, once bets are placed on this widespread local sport, competition between combatants couldn’t be simpler with two male fish placed into a glass jar and thereafter must fight to the death or at least until one tries to do a runner! Although most fights are typically over within minutes, some victories have been known to take hours. 

Bull Fighting in ThailandThai Bull Fighting

Down in Hat Yai local farmers have their own, safer, form of bull fighting. Unlike the deadly Spanish style, Thai farmers simply get their bulls to “lock-horns”, in a test of strength with the winner being the animal still standing in the centre of the ring or the one that hasn’t fled. Almost comically, in a well matched contest you will see owners actually giving their bulls a helping hand, push and even a kick up the backside! You can catch the action on the first Saturday of each month at the Khlong Wa Stadium. 

Makruk Thai ChessMak Ruk (Thai Chess)

“Mak Ruk” is more like the western style chess game rather than the Chinese one. Although the object of the game is the same; to get checkmate, it’s played a lot faster than its western counterpart. In general, the size of the “Mak Ruk” board, the number of pieces and the rules of capture are the same. Kings cannot castle and aside from the queens and bishops, which can only move one square, all other pieces move in the same ways as those in the western style of the game. Mak Ruk is enjoyed by all Thais with games commonly seen all over the kingdom. 

And remember….

Keepitreal

Wakeboarding in Thailand

Wakeboarding in Thailand
Wakeboarding in Thailand
Wakeboarding in Thailand
Wakeboarding in Thailand

“Daa…” Splash! My friend loses control of his wakeboard and plunges headfirst into the lake. But seconds later he is up, huge smile on his face. “This is awesome,” he beams, giving me the thumbs up sign.”

It’s a sultry Saturday morning and I’m sitting in the sunshine beside a sparkling clear blue lake fringed by palm trees and the red sloping roves of temples, which glitter and shine as the dun hits them. Hard to believe that this is just outside Bangkok, but the truth is that a short taxi ride away from the busy capital, this peaceful haven is just waiting to be discovered.

The great thing is, even on a Saturday the beautiful Taco Lake is far from crowded. In the middle of the day there are only around two dozen people, including a couple of families who have brought picnics and cheer and laugh as dad plays on the lake.

Wakeboarding is a surface water sport where people ride a wakeboard over the water, towed behind a motorboat or a cable on a circuit. Wakeboarding uses a combination of waterskiing, snowboarding and surfing techniques and emerged in the 1980s.

The sport is largely recognised to have been invented by Canadian Paul Fraser, who developed the concept and design with the help of his brother Murray. But it was in the mid 1990s, when wakeboarding was added as a competitive sport in the X Games II, that it became really popular. The interest in the sport was so intense that it prompted the World Skiboard Association to redefine itself as the World Wakeboard Association.

Although it looks tricky, wakeboarding is quite easy to get into and very addictive. The boards are buoyant and the core is usually made from foam or honeycomb mixed with resin and coated with fibreglass. There are metal screws inserted, which attach bindings and fins. There are lots of different fin styles and shapes. Generally, the closer the fins are to the center of the wakeboard the better the board releases from the wake.

Riding the wakeboard is quite simple, in theory at least. The rider performs jumps by hitting the wake and launching into the air or by hitting a special ramp known as a kicker. There is often a rail bar – known as a slider – which the rider can balance along in the same manner as a skateboarder.

As with any extreme sport, there are a whole host of wakeboarding manoeuvres waiting to be mastered. Here are some of the most popular tricks to try:

Raley: this is where you hit the wake and swing your body backwards, up overhead, parallel to the water. Then

swing your board and body back down and land on the other side of the wake.

Fakie/Switch: Ride the board with your weak foot forward.

Butter Slide: The rider approaches the wake and snaps the board sideways to slide on top of the wake.

Surface 360: Spin the board 360 degrees while riding the surface of the water.

If all that seems a bit too much like hard work, you can try kneeboarding instead. Kneeboarding originated in Southern California in the mid 1960s. As with wakeboarding, the participants are towed on a board behind a motorboat or cable.
 
However, kneeboarding is somewhat easier than wakeboarding as the rider sits on their heels on the board, secured to the deck with an adjustable strap over the thighs. This means that there is no need to balance, which can be a problem for wakeboarders. Although easier to master, kneeboarding is still a lot of fun and there are a lot of tricks to learn and perform.

After three hours of messing about on the lake, everyone is tired but happy, nursing their aching muscles. So we head back to Khaosan Road to drink a few beers and eat pad thai on the street.

Information:

Taco Lake is located about a 30 minute journey from Bangkok in Samut Prakarn Province. To get there, follow the KM 13 Bangna-Trad Road for 150 meters and look for signs for the Intensity Pro shop. You can also phone +66 1855 5295 for more information.

The lake is open daily from 10 a.m. tickets cost just 300 baht for two hours. A standard board is provided for free, or you can pay 100 baht to hire a special board for the entire day. Lifejackets are also provided free of charge and there are plenty of facilities such as changing rooms, benches and a restaurant.
 
About the author:

Kirsty Turner (Kay) is a freelance writer currently living in Bangkok. She has kindly agreed to write for KhaoSanRoad.com and share her love of all things Thai and, especially, all things Khao San Road!