The Wakeboard Girl Who Defies Limits

What drives someone to take up a particular sport?

Personal interest, love at first sight or the desire to be like their idol?

Those might be the reasons for most people, but not for Patcharapon ‘Ploy’ Jungguluam, a pro wakeboarder and a national team rider for Thailand with countless medals under her belt. For Ploy, she took up the sport out of pure necessity.  

“The first time I saw people wakeboarding, I got super scared. I told my mom that I wouldn’t go through with it. But since she already bought me the ticket, I was kind of forced to” (laughs).

She told us that the first time she got to experience this extreme sport was about three years ago when she was 13 years old. She recalled the day when she went to the waterpark in Nakhon Ratchasima with her friends with the intention of jet skiing. Instead, fate brought her to wakeboarding, the sport that she was dreading and had sworn that she would never give it a try.

Overcoming fear

Pressured by the circumstances, she knew that she had to overcome her fear. “When I first saw [wakeboarding], I figured that it was too challenging for me and I got really scared. But since my mom already got me the ticket, I had no other choice but to bite the bullet. Actually, it wasn’t all that scary when I finally tried it. Plus, I think I did a pretty good job. As I came to learn more about the sport, I realized how cool it was (laughs). I mean, you stand on a board and move on the water. It’s super awesome! It’s a kind of sport that turns heads. The more I did it, the more I fell in love with it. And after entering a few competitions, I got chosen to join the national team.”

Ploy was part of Supra Boats – Wakeboard team before she became a national team rider in 2019. As a cable wakeboarder, she won gold medals in three categories (Wakeboard Junior Girl, Open Women Wakeskate, Open Women Wakeboard) from Singha cable Wakeboard & Wakeskate Thailand Championship 2019 Round 1 at Zanook Wake Park. She then went on to compete in the 2019 SEA Games and became the first runner-up in the Open Women category. She’s totally on a winning streak.

No fear, no results

If Ploy had given in to her fear that day, we wouldn’t have an extremely talented 16-year-old wakeboarder on the scene today. She told us that if she had succumbed to the fear, a lot of positive things wouldn’t have happened. Her health has improved because the sport requires her to be in control of her whole body. The fun and pleasure that she gets from spending time on her board is as precious and unforgettable as the friendship that she gets from the wakeboarding community. “We’re like one big family. We talk about pretty much everything and always support one another. We also have our experienced coach Damian Lea Anwar from England who gives us advice and helps us with our training. It’s not just us athletes, but pretty much anyone including our friends from overseas. The community is warm and super supportive. Like when I was training for the SEA Games, I was also coping with a knee injury. I had to undergo some physical therapy, which made everything a little more challenging.
Thanks to my team, though, I managed to get through it and place first at the SEA Games.”

The new challenge

When you compete as an individual, the pressure is understandably not as strong as when you compete on behalf of the whole nation. Doing so at such a young age requires a new kind of stamina. And, of course, there’s also that pressure to perform better. All eyes are now on her. “Being in my position also comes with fear. Not the fear of wakeboarding, but rather the fear of not performing as well as my teammates. Since I’m one of the youngest team members, I try to give my all when I train. There are times when I train so hard that I almost give up. But, yeah, I try to have fun, especially when I have to master new moves for the next competition. When I have fun, motivation will follow, which will push me to train even harder.”

Family is an inspiration

People may often see her traveling to the outskirts of Bangkok for her training sessions. In fact, it’s her mom who’s behind it all as she’s the one who drives the young athlete from their Korat home to THAI WAKE PARK in Pathum Thani on a weekly basis. Ploy told us that she tries to give her all in everything she does. Monday to Friday is dedicated to school while Saturday and Sunday are reserved for training at THAI WAKE PARK. She then goes back home, rests and prepares for another week of school. 

“This has been my routine for more than two years. My mom is an excellent driver and she’s also a great supporter. I’m able to do all of these things and manage my time effectively because of her.”

From fear to lifestyle 

The girl that used to be scared of wakeboarding three years ago is the same girl who confessed to us that wakeboarding has now become an integral part of her life. Ploy told us that wakeboarding is highly addictive. From what she’s seen from fellow wakeboarders, you can take a break from it, but you can’t simply quit. As for her own future plans, she’s hoping to keep doing it until she can become a world champion. She hopes that by 25, she would return to coach the new generation of Thai wakeboarders and improve the sport so that it’s more accessible. When we asked in how many years she’s planning to become a world champ, she smiled and said: “Others might have a clear timeline. For me, I live by the motto ‘no expectations, no disappointment.’ I don’t have a clear-cut schedule like that, but I do believe that if I do my best everyday, I’ll reach my goal one day.”

Let fear be your motivation

“Wakeboarding might seem extreme, but it’s not really that scary. Trust me, I’ve been there before. When you’re standing on the board, moving along the water, you’ll be having so much fun and feeling so free that you forget everything else. Fear is normal, but I’d like to encourage everyone to face their fear and embrace a new experience. You don’t need to become a professional wakeboarder, just work through your fear and try to overcome it. That experience alone is worth it.”

Last but not least, Ploy gave us a tip on how to choose the right board. The most important thing to consider is to pick the board that’s right for your height, weight and your personal style of wakeboarding. Boards come in different shapes and sizes. For someone with the same build as her (173 cm., 63 kg.), the recommended board is Double Up, Atlas, size 42. It’s light, but not too flexible. It’s also equipped with a great support for your feet.

Venue courtesy of THAI WAKE PARK

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