“THE ONLY PLACE LEFT”
East Coast Park is currently home to water sports facilities like Constant Wind Sports Centre, PAssion Wave @ East Coast, and Aloha Sea Sports Centre. Constant Wind director Ho Kah Soon started sailing as a teen in 1975, and sea sports have been a fixture of his life since then. The 64-year-old now does stand-up paddling weekly, and also windsurfs. While Constant Wind has not been engaged by the authorities on development plans, Mr Ho expects it to be affected by the reclamation, based on images of Long Island published in the media. The centre is located close to Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal. “We’re so sad that this is going to happen,” he said. “This is like a Hawaii of Singapore. And this is the only place left, and it’s going to be taken away.”
The east coast is the only place in Singapore where activities like sailing, windsurfing and kitesurfing can be done, according to Mr Ho. This is because it is free of sea lane traffic, and the waters are safe and clean. He contrasted this with Singapore’s north-west coast, where there are crocodiles, and the south-west coast, where port facilities limit the sea area that can be used for recreational use.
Occupational therapist Chen Changwu, 46, who windsurfs every week, said that while wind-propelled sports can be done off Changi Beach, it does not have facilities to store equipment. It is also good for only one of Singapore’s two monsoon seasons, when wind speeds pick up.
Sentosa is not suitable due to strong currents around the island, he added. Aloha Sea Sports assistant general manager Max Ong said that the wind tends to be disrupted in a closed reservoir as opposed to the open sea. To his knowledge, there is currently no freshwater catchment area in Singapore that allows windsurfing and stand-up paddling.
There are also concerns that Long Island could affect the sailing community. Singapore’s national sailors have excelled in recent competitions, picking up three gold medals at this year’s SEA Games, and two silvers and two bronzes at the Asian Games. President of Singapore Sailing Dr Lincoln Chee, whose federation is also located at East Coast Park, said the Long Island project can have a “significant impact” on the sport. While the sailing community is supportive of measures to protect Singapore’s coastline, the east coast is the “most accessible area” for recreational sailing and national training, he said. It is also “critical” from the perspective of accessibility, safety, reasonable winds and currents.
“Sailing requires open waters and beyond the Long Island are shipping lines which may be a danger and a conflict,” he said. Dr Chee stressed the need for early and deep consultations on Long Island with various water sports communities. “We look forward to discussions with the various agencies to creatively find a way to meet national security and the health and well-being of our maritime traditions,” he said.
“After all being decades away, perhaps there will be technological advancements, which we can’t know now, that would allow the current attributes of east coast to be preserved without us being too dogmatic or inflexible to adapt.”
HOPES FOR LONG ISLAND