Mak Cheuk-wing is breezing through life as Hong Kong’s next big windsurfing superstar.
The 15-year-old became the first windsurfer to win a medal two years in a row in the Junior Windsurfing Championships. She first won in Italy, and then took silver at the 2017 Techno 293 World Championships in Spain. She also came fifth in a Youth Women Class Windsurfing event in France, in which she was racing against girls up to 18 years old.
“This is a marvellous achievement considering her age, as she is racing against much bigger and stronger competitors,” says Hong Kong Windsurfing Association executive director Dennis Chau Wai-keung. “She is still very young and has plenty of room for improvement.”
Cheuk-wing also received the Hong Kong Sports Institute Outstanding Junior Athlete award for the second straight year. She talked to Young Post at the award ceremony and took the opportunity to promote her “extremely underrated” sport.
“I think more people should try windsurfing,” says Cheuk-wing, a student at St Stephen’s Girls’ College. “It’s a lot less competitive than sports like table tennis and badminton which everybody plays. Besides, it’s so much more fun. You have complete freedom out on the water and once you are good, you can go really fast. It’s such a thrill.”
Cheuk-wing’s early win has earned her a spot in this year’s Youth Olympic Games in Argentina, where she has set her sights on a gold medal. However, she hopes to go even further and follow in the footsteps of her idol Lee Lai-shan or “San-san” – a fellow Hongkonger and windsurfer who won a world championship as well as the city’s first and only Olympic gold medal. “She helped me believe in myself. I saw that if she can do it, I can do it, too.”
Cheuk-wing is also a keen basketball player, and still plays for her school team, but once she saw people out on the water, she knew she’d found a new hobby.
“I would see windsurfers out in Stanley and think to myself ‘that looks so cool’,” she says. “My dad encouraged me to try the sport and now it has become my passion.”
She admits, however, that windsurfing is not for the faint-hearted. “It’s an intense sport that is very demanding physically, and it takes some time to not be scared of water.”
She recalls the time when a massive fish, around 1.5 metres long started chasing her boat. “I was screaming at the top of my lungs and trying to get away. I think it wanted me for food! It chased me for around five minutes, and just when I thought I was safe, I looked down and it was actually under my boat!”
Fortunately, Cheuk-wing didn’t get hurt and she was able to overcome her fear of water after the incident.
“Windsurfing is all about conquering your fears,” she says.
Her message to young athletes thinking about trying her sport? “Just do it,” she says. “Don’t just do the sports that everyone else does. I know that if more people tried windsurfing, they would love it just as much as I do.”