A Vietnamese kite-surfing instructor who won the 2011 Kite Board Tour Asia competition and many other international titles says the sport literally saved his life.
During a recent interview with Thanh Nien News, Nguyen Ngoc Kin, 34 recalled growing up rough on Mui Ne Beach in the south-central province of Binh Thuan
To begin with, he was expelled from the third grade for skipping classes and fighting.
After quitting school, Kin followed his parents on offshore fishing trips to help with cooking and petty jobs.
He was notorious in Ham Tien – Mui Ne area as a naughty child renown for his fighting and drinking, his two main jobs beside offshore fishing trips.
“I used to make daily trips to the ward police station,” he said.
Once during a spat between his four-member gang and a dozen of gangsters from Ho Chi Minh City, Kin doused himself in gasoline, picked up a lighter and rushed the crowd screaming about how he wanted them to “die together.”
Luckily, he was unable to catch any of his rivals and was instead taken in by the local police.
After growing bored with his family’s fishing trips, Kin went to the coastal resort town of Nha Trang to work on a shrimp farm when at 15.
Living with other migrants, including wanted criminals, Kin had nothing to his name but his drinking and fighting abilities.
“Soon enough, I turned 20; I was illiterate and had zero job skills. After watching my father struggle through lung cancer to raise my small brothers and sister, I decided to fix myself.”
20-year-old 1st grader
After returning to Mui Ne to drive a three-wheeled motorbike, Kin became interested in kite-surfing, a new sport in the beach town, and took a job with an Australian kite-surfing instructor.
“I'd studied to grade three but only knew a little because I always skipped classes and fought all the time.," he said. "At that time, I knew almost nothing,”
Fearing of being dismissed, Kin bought some first grade school books and began to study. At the same time, he learned a little spoken English from his employer.
His diligence won the Australian's trust and he agreed to teach him kite-surfing for free.
Kin's experience of fishing at sea, fighting strong waves gave him a definite edge on the board.
Just a few years later, he became one of a few Vietnamese people with an international kite-surfing instructor certificate.
In 2011, Kin won the speed category at the Kiteboard Tour Asia in the Philippines and came in third in the technical category.
His friends often call him Vua (King) Mui Ne because he has repeatedly won the King of Mui Ne kite-surfing competitions.
But Kin said no success comes without a price. He's suffered two broken ribs, a broken shoulder bone and countless tendon injuries.
Tran Dang Hai, director of the kite-surfing company Canh Dieu Viet, said Kin is one of the “toughest” surfers in Asia.
“He is famous for creating his own move of surfing backward by holding the straps with a hand and a foot while balancing on the board with the other hand and foot,” he said.
In 2006, Kin took on a Russian student named Anatasiya Lebedeva. A year later, the couple married. The “tough” Kin rejected all criticism from locals about their language barrier, age difference and the fact that she's almost a foot taller than he is.
Kin is always happy to introduce guests to his two children, Nguyen Lebedeva Dong and Nguyen Lebedeva Van.
After watching Kin check his email, surf Facebook and speak fluent English over the phone, few could imagine him an illiterate gangster.
Neighbors who once warned their children to stay away from Kin, now view him as a role model.
They often tell their children: “Look how naughty Kin takes care of his parents.”
After becoming a kite-surfing instructor, Kin helped around ten poor locals break into the business.
He says he plans to open a free kite-surfing class for local street kids and orphans.
“Without kite-surfing, I would have been jailed or killed in a street fight… Who knows? Maybe there will be other Kins.”
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