Onlookers are often surprised to find the slender figure bobbing and weaving along a stretch of closed-off highway, moving as though her longboard were an extension of her feet, is not a teenager but a 63-year-old woman.
Nongluck “Jeab” Chairuettichai is the oldest member of Thailand’s national longboard team and a relative newcomer to the sport.
Her journey to the national side began 10 years ago, while she was recovering from chemotherapy and surgery after she’d developed breast cancer.
Determined to regain her strength, Jeab gave longboarding a try. “I decided to pick up the board and mess around with it a bit, and it turned out that I can balance myself on the board very well. So I thought this is actually quite fun,” she recalls.
Jeab asked her son, Soteera (37), who’s a longboard enthusiast, to buy her a board.
“She’s always been
the adventurous type, so I wasn’t surprised at all that she wanted to
longboard,” Soteera says.
The mother of two went on to make a name for herself in Thailand’s small longboarding community by frequently competing in tournaments. She’s also inspired more women, young and old, to join the male-dominated sport.
“I don’t really have a goal to win in every tournament. The real goal is to win peace of mind and the wellbeing of my body,” she says. “I skate for my happiness. And that’s enough.”
Soteera admits he was concerned about his mother’s health, but he also wanted to see her enjoy life.
“Worrying about her too much to the point where she can’t do anything or being too paranoid about the disease isn’t right, because she has to live her life,” he says.
Jeab’s cancer is in remission and she says longboarding as exercise helped her recovery.
“I’m quite confident that longboarding helped me recover from cancer because [this sport] is not just about pushing the board from top to bottom. The hike from the bottom [of a steep road] to the top is exercise in itself.
“Whenever I’m on the board it’s as if I leave everything behind, all the troubles and all the conflicts in life. I completely forget about them. I’m just on the board and let the board go on its own path.”
Jeab now sports two tattoos, one on her forearm that reads “longboard lover” and another on her calf, which is her life philosophy: “Don’t wait to be cool.”
SOURCES: scmp.com, ewn.co.za