Vietnam has an annual tropical climate that creates lush jungles among waterways and historic communities. It is a popular vacation spot for those looking for a tropical getaway. With these things considered, this location is one of the last locations on Earth that one might equate with snowboarding. However, native Nguyen Thai Binh has recently gained recognition for his snowboarding talent.
Long-haired and suntanned, the 29-year-old athlete more closely resembles a surfer from the coast of California rather than a professional in the snow. In 2017, Bihn was one of Vietnam’s team members to compete in skiing events, which have long been popular in China, Japan, and South Korea.
When he and the Vietnam team arrived in Sapporo for the Asian Winter Games, they had never seen snow. He and other Vietnam team skiers often trained on the Mui Ne sand dunes using branches for slalom poles. The icy snow-covered hills were slippery, which made maintaining control more difficult. Some team members suffered injuries.
Interest Turned to Snowboarding
In the northern region of the country, the Sapa Mountains stand. During the winter months, the peaks receive minimal snowfall. Thus, the environment hardly accommodates winter sports enthusiasts. But, Bihn was determined to participate in the sport of snowboarding.
As an alternative, Binh found that the majestic sand dunes called Mui Ne in the southern region to be the perfect destination for honing his snowboarding skills.
As a youth, Binh was frail-looking and hardly a candidate for sporting events. As he got older, Bihn vowed to grow stronger and bigger. He participated in martial arts, kitesurfing, and longboarding. He began sand surfing in 2007. Although sand boarding uses slightly different equipment, the dunes allowed the Vietnamese athlete to gain basic boarding skills. His surfing skills also served him well.
Lack of Options
Local malls often feature indoor ice skating and hockey rinks. However, not much effort has been devoted to skiing or snowboarding. The lack of environmental opportunities does not dismay Bihn who remains determined. He plans to compete in the 2021 Asian Winter Games. But, Bihn must find a sponsor.
Some of the Vietnamese athletes have turned their attention to skateboarding and plan to compete in the Asian Games in the Philippines. However, Nguyen Thai Binh remains devoted to snowboarding and reports that the sport is now his first love. He is proud of his efforts to popularize the sport in his native country.