Life goes beyond the digits on the scale and your body is capable of so much more! Yahoo’s #Fitspo of the Week series is dedicated to inspirational men and women in Singapore leading healthy and active lifestyles. Have someone to recommend? Hit up on or !
Food: I’m quite a big eater and like to eat a wide variety of food. I do not follow a specific diet, but I try to eat healthier food.
Exercise: I usually work out twice a week. It could be either weightlifting, yoga or swimming!
Q: How did you get into swimming?
A: I grew up in Taiwan and started swimming when I was four. My parents brought me to a swimming pool and I realised that I really love the feeling of being free in water. I started taking swimming lessons and have been swimming since then.
When did you decide to become competitive in swimming?
When I was in primary school, my swimming coach thought that it would be a good opportunity for me to get some exposure to competitive swimming. I took up the challenge and started training for it. It was tough for a child, but the experience helped shape my character into a self-disciplined and focused individual.
Have you also been competitive in other sports?
Yes, I played basketball and was on the basketball team for a large part of my teenage years. I played it competitively in junior college. As I have been swimming mostly my entire life, it opened the door to other water sports as well, like water polo. I also had the opportunity to represent Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in the Singapore University Games in aquathlon. My teammates were fiercely driven individuals, and nine of us went on to complete an Ironman race in Taiwan.
Why did you decide to start SwimRay?
When I came to Singapore from Taiwan, I joined some swim squads, but realised that most did not teach techniques and skills for open-water swimming, which was what I was used to growing up as a competitive swimmer in Taiwan. In Taiwan, we were thrown into the open water to learn, train and race, and trainings were rigorous. But in Singapore, although the trainings were more structured and methodical, it was less rigorous and lacked a "push" element for swimmers to fulfil their maximum potential for longer swimming competitions such as aquathlons or triathlons.
During national service (NS), I served as a combat medic in the Navy, which allowed me to put into good use my swimming experience to help distressed swimmers. But during my time there, I was surprised to know many did not have proper survival skills or stroke techniques. Many of my peers told me they have never swum in the open sea before, and hence were pretty stressed out during navy operations. As such, I felt that there was still a gap to be taught in swimming, and it was important that everyone had the skills to survive in any water body and situation.
Also, during university, I captained the NTU aquathlon team, and my time with the team made me realise I could add so much more to the swimmers in Singapore - be it in competitive swimming, stroke correction or open water swimming. I felt fulfilled in influencing and lives of others and wanted to continue teaching swimming.
On the other hand, my business partner and co-founder Ray, who was on the basketball team with me in during Junior College, drew on his experiences while serving NS in the Naval Diving Unit (NDU). He realised that swimming was more than just being fast and fit, as NDU trainings focused more on survival during situations of distress (running out of air supply, navigation in pitch black darkness) in the water. Accident survival techniques like drown-proofing were taught, which greatly improved the naval divers’ water confidence.
As a former swim student in the past, Ray also felt there was a lack of survival skills taught in Singapore, as most private swimming lessons focused on stroke efficiency. But being able to swim does not necessarily mean being able to survive in an accident or times of distress, for instance entanglement or limb capacity underwater. Ray was also studying Sports Science and Management in NTU and wanted to make an impact by creating a unique program and syllabus for kids and adults who want to learn to swim.
In 2017, Ray and I decided to build a team to share our teaching philosophy with them. We started with aspiring swim coaches and conducted sharing sessions to help them learn more about teaching cues and how to engage our students. With me heading the competitive and stroke correction element with open water swimming as our end goal, and Ray taking charge of the ‘Learn To Swim’ syllabus drawing from his experience in NDU, SwimRay has grown from a small team to the team we have today.
Tell us more about SwimRay.
SwimRay is a private swim school in Singapore which offers the first-of-its-kind swim pedagogy combining accident survival swimming techniques from Ray’s experience in NDU, and competitive swimming skills from my experience growing up as a competitive swimmer. This is laid out in SwimRay’s five-step Aquatic Roadmap, which progressively brings beginners from the water phobia stage, to mastery of accident survival swimming skills, to competitive swimming concepts, before we conclude with open water swimming.
When did you first start coaching? What made you go into coaching?
I started coaching when I was captain of the NTU aquathlon team, which was where I discovered my passion for coaching. As captain of the team, I had opportunities to work with swimmers of all levels. I started guiding them on swimming techniques and gave them drills and practices. It was also then where I felt the fulfilment in influencing the lives of others, be it through influencing them as a leader in the aquathlon team, or helping them improve through peer coaching.
This led me to take up a summer stint with MOE to teach in a primary school too. After learning from the more experienced coaches, I found myself wanting to learn more, so I enrolled in coaching courses to understand how to better help others build their swimming techniques and learn how to swim.
Did you consider a corporate job?
Yes, I did consider teaching, as it was what I have always wanted to do. I did internships and attachments as a teacher. At the same time, I am an outdoor person and someone who loves to keep to a flexible schedule, so I decided to be a coach instead. Coaching has definitely allowed me to find that balance between doing something I like to do and what I am good at.
What are some of the challenges you've faced in starting up the school?
There are challenges in every industry and starting up a swim school is definitely a tough but rewarding journey. At the beginning, it took quite a bit of trial and error, hours spent rectifying mistakes to streamline the business. But the toughest part is probably people management. When the organisation gets bigger, some of our coaches may struggle with familiarising themselves with one another. Hence, we try to organise training sessions for our coaches to not only align themselves with our pedagogy, but also to know each other better. We believe in the power of collaboration, and I think that is one of the key reasons for our success.
When you were younger, did you experience any incidents that made you feel insecure about yourself?
My parents were business owners, so we moved and often relocated when I was younger. In primary school, I moved to two schools and in secondary school, I changed three classes. I remember struggling to re-adapt after each move. These frequent changes were out of my control and to look at this more positively, I have learnt to adapt to my surroundings.
Over time, it has also taught me to focus on changing what I can control. For example, I can control how I make new friends in a new environment instead of my circumstances. It has also eventually shaped me into a proactive individual who likes to be in control. Whenever I have any new ideas for the business, I will take action and start building on them.
When did you feel the least confident about yourself?
In school, I felt that I was a slower learner compared to my peers. Thus, I understood that I have to work even harder to catch up on any gaps. But I think it is important for us to understand our learning styles. Some of us are visual learners, while others are tactile learners. I tend to work better in individual, short spurts. As much as I encourage collaboration, I believe that some of us need time alone to sort out our thoughts to get clarity.
Did you ever struggle with your body?
Yes, I do struggle with my body weight. I am a big eater and I don’t really diet. In university, when I was an endurance athlete, I forced myself to eat clean and adopted a vegetarian diet. This helped me peak in my performance. It was a lot of self-discipline, and it was very tough as eating is one of my biggest pleasures in life, which I’m sure many of us can identify with. Just an advice, output should always match or exceed your input. Exercise!
Are you satisfied with your body now?
It is in my nature that I want to seek improvement constantly, so I feel that my body can still be fitter and more refined. It can be tough to strike a balance between exercise and my career, and now I try my best to maintain my current body build. Most people comment that I have broad shoulders and I guess they know why after finding out that I’m a swimmer.