We chat with Hong Kong resident Lorraine Lam, founder of SSW Board House. She’s the second interviewee of our spotlight series where we connect with entrepreneurs, artists, or residents who are making their mark in Hong Kong.
Lorraine started SSW Board House, a water sports school, this year when she was no longer able to travel to Guangzhou, China,—where she also owns an indoor skiing school—because of COVID-related restrictions. She shares her insights on why kayaking is so popular in Hong Kong, her favorite spots for water sports, and tips on what beginner kayakers should know.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hello, my name is Lorraine and I am the founder of SSW Board House, a water sports school offering services relating to kayaking and SUP (stand up paddle board). I run the business together with retired Hong Kong kayak team member Angel Ho, and a headmaster of a soccer club.
SSW Board House offers:
Describe a typical day in your life.
I wake up at 6:30 am, look outside and check the day’s weather forecast to see if it’s a good day for water sports (What’s the wind direction?, How strong is the wind?, Is it going to rain soon?). Then I walk down to the beach and look at the waves.
If it is not a good day for water sports, I have to call my clients before 8 am. But if it is good weather, my day looks like this:
- 6:30 am to 8:45 am: Have breakfast, then check equipment: kayaks, SUP, paddles, life jackets, etc.
- 8:45 am: Meet the day’s instructor and quickly double-check all the equipment.
- 9 am: As clients arrive, I gather information, have them sign an agreement, and provide a short briefing before heading to the beach.
- 9:15 am to 9:30 am: I go over warm-ups and teach safety procedures and signals.
- 9:30 am to 3 pm: Head out on the kayaking or SUP trip. If it’s a beginner’s trip to Green Egg Island, we begin the day with basic knowledge regarding safety, paddling skills, how to get on and off the kayak, etc. Then we will paddle to the island. Once there, we get some rest, grab lunch, or maybe do some snorkeling as well. If the students and team members are not too tired, we will bring them to Shelter Island, a place where you can find very nice coral. If it’s a family trip then we will play kayak games with them.
- 3 pm to 4 pm: We start heading back to the base. After all my clients leave, I wash the gear, and double-check if all the SUPs and kayaks are in good order.
Tell us about your kayaking business SSW Board House.
I started it in the summer of 2020. I own a snowboarding and skiing school at an indoor ski resort in Guangzhou, but because of COVID I can’t go back, so I’ve been thinking about doing something else and that’s why we started kayaking. I live in Sheung Sze Wan, an excellent location to get to the famous Green Egg Island.
We have four certified kayak instructors on our team and one of them is retired Hong Kong kayak team member Angel Ho. She used to represent Hong Kong for the Asian Games before she retired.
Why is kayaking so popular in Hong Kong?
There are several reasons. First of all, summer in Hong Kong lasts for almost 9 months. From March to November, the weather is just so great for water sports.
Secondly, people are stuck in Hong Kong because of COVID and need to do something and go somewhere to spend their energy. And Hong Kong has one of the most beautiful collections of islands in the world.
Lastly, unlike other water sports, such as wind surfing or wake surfing, kayaking is easy. You just need a kayak, a paddle, a life jacket, some water, and yourself—and you are good to go.
What are your recommendations for a kayaking day trip in Hong Kong?
For beginners, I suggest going to San Men Zi and Tai Mei Tuk in the Tai Po district. There’s not much wind and or waves. And you can see mangrove forests and sea stars on the trip. If you are lucky enough, you will be able to see spotted seahorses, which are a protected species.
People with intermediate experience and skills can start from Sheung Sze Wan, going to Elt Island (Tiu Chung Cau) and Basalt Island—the marine caves over there are just stunning.
Tai O is also a great place for people with advanced skills and experience. I love their fishing village!
Have you seen an increase in people trying out water sports (like kayaking) for the first time since COVID hit?
There’s been a huge increase in people trying out water sports since COVID hit. With the 1.5 m social distance requirement, water sports like kayaking and SUP are great options.
What advice do you have for someone who has never been kayaking before?
- Always go in group, and make sure you stay with each other.
- Keep checking the weather, before and when you are kayaking, not just the weather report but also look at the sky, look at all the signals showing how strong the wind is and the wind direction.
- Always wear a life jacket
- Learn how to react if you drop into the water.
- Learn basic knowledge of how to handle the kayak.
- If possible, join a tour lead by an experienced instructor before you head out for a trip on your own.
What do you like best about living in Hong Kong? What’s your favorite place to take visitors in Hong Kong?
I love Hong Kong because it’s so easy to get around. I could be at work in Central’s CBD at around 2 pm, but by 4 pm I can just chill out and enjoy some sunbathing along Clear Water Bay.
I love visiting the Sai Kung area, where there are a lot of small villages and they are all very cozy and chill.
What are your cheapo tip(s) for Hong Kong?
There is a traditional noodle shop in San Men Zi called San Fat, managed by a couple in their seventies. The beef belly and dumplings are just so yummy, and are about half the price than other shops in the city!
If you love seafood and are planning a nice dinner in Sai Kung, make sure you buy the seafood from the wet market and bring it to the shop for cooking. It’s much cheaper!
PMQ in Central is a nice place to chill, and there is a shop on the 4th floor selling a lot of cool design items, such as Hong Kong–style cufflinks, East Meets West t-shirts, phone cases, dim sum candles, and more. Great price too!
What do you like to do on your days off?
I like to go cycling and have BBQs on my days off. In the northern part of Hong Kong, a super cycling path is now open that links Ma On Shan to Tuen Mun.