Swells of Hope

Belinda Baggs
Surf 2006

Face pressed against the glass, I watch as the wind roars down the Kenting street. Sideways rain closes in and distorts my vision. The approaching typhoon brings with it anxiety but, most importantly, hope.

I am in the Republic of Taiwan. This lost island paradise is home to 22,894,834 people. In most regions the country’s natural beauty has been traded to the economic devil. Oceans have been overfished; shorelines developed with fish farms and landlocked with seawalls. The beaches that do physically remain untouched are often blanketed with trash. Despite all of the madness and wrongdoing here, there is a small light at the end of a long tunnel.

Hope has arrived to a small group of local Taiwanese surfers and myself; the wind backs away and the sky clears in Taiwan’s first national park. The ocean is a deep shade of chocolate brown but no one’s spirits are dampened. This is one of those moments that we surfers live for: the joy of riding with the best that Mother Ocean has to offer.

Outside, a head-high peak twirls left and winds down a perfectly arranged cobblestone point. I stroke into a nicely shaped set. Gliding along, I sweep onto a long wall and flow out onto an open face. Eventually, the wave tapers down and the lip chases me to the finish. I am deposited in the channel and left to rest. This cycle repeats, and countless hours are lost in the moment.

Locals and tourists alike watch in wonderment. Their interest in this instant is what my friends are hoping for: an opportunity for understanding between different ways of life. The message is simple, but hard for people here to comprehend: The ocean is not a wasteland, but a natural playground – respect our seas. The goal of the local Taiwanese surfers is to build awareness through appreciation. I cross my fingers in hopes that they will make a difference.

About the Author

Surfing is Patagonia ambassador Belinda Baggs’ passion. Born and raised in Newcastle, Australia, she began surfing with her dad at age 14 and was schooled in the ways of surfing by the dredging shorebreak, overhead south swells and local lineup at Bar Beach.