IN A way, lakes all over the Klang Valley are Phillipa Yoong’s “hometown.”
The SEA Games gold medalist grew up slicing through lakes on waterskis since 1989.
She recalls the weekly family outings — made compulsory by her father Hanifah Yoong — began at a former mining site (now Mines Resort City) that was famously referred to as the largest open-cast tin mine in the world.
“The area was formally considered part of Balakong.
“There was no highway nor hotel, and we had to drive down a muddy road to get to the water,” Phillipa, 34, said.
She remembered the skiing business was operated by a father-and-son team, Richard and Lionel, and the mobile was relocated every time the water level rose!
“Everything was so basic; we ate roti bakar with kaya and cheese. It was really nice,” she said.
They moved to another lake in Taman Desa (next to Desa Waterpark) the following year.
“The lake was surrounded by jungle and there were a lot of iguanas and turtles. We lived in Taman Desa back then and I would walk down to the lake and the boat would pick me up from the shore.
“Once, I found a big turtle shell there and hung it outside the cabin but it was gone the next day,” Phillipa described, holding her arms above her head to indicate the size of the shell.
The lake had also attracted big events such as the International Water Ski Federation (IWSF), Asian Water Ski Championship and Asian Australasian Water Ski Championship.
“I spent my youth there. I was there every day, be it school holidays, Christmas or Chinese New Year,” Phillipa said.
In 1995, the Yoongs moved again because the lake became part of a flood mitigation system.
News media reported that the lake was to be one of the diversion points for the excess floodwaters, as part of the Stormwater Management and Road Tunnel (SMART) system.
From Taman Desa, the Yoongs relocated to Tasik Biru, which was sited in the middle of a Malay kampung in Sungai Buloh.
However, watersports took a decline shortly after and the family stopped skiing in 2001.
“The place was too far and too hard to get to. And there were no competitions, which were important to stir public interest,” said Phillipa.
During the seven-year hiatus, Phillipa went overseas to study, returned to Malaysia, got married and started a family of her own.
In 2008, an opportunity presented itself.
“The IWSF approached my father, who is now its secretary-general, to host the Waterski and Wakeboard World Cup at the Putrajaya Lake in Precinct 6,” she said.
Located at the southern part of the wetland in Putrajaya, the man-made Putrajaya Lake covers a surface of about 400ha, with a depth ranging between 3m and 14m.
The lake was planned for multi-functional uses, such as recreation, fishing, water sports and water transport.
Phillipa rates the facility 10 out of 10.
“The lake has a control tower and grand stand. A five-star hotel (Pullman Putrajaya Lakeside) is also right next to it. It is perfect for skiing.
“Putrajaya Corporation (PPj) maintains the lake by cleaning it every day,” she said.
The lake has also attracted international athletes, such as the Australian and South Korean junior ski teams as well as the world champions French women national team, to conduct their training.
Phillipa credited PPj for its huge support for the waterski sport.
“My dad pays a nominal rental to use the facility. PPj lets us train there and sponsors the prize money,” she said.
The only grouse she has about the lake is the water condition.
“Skiing needs flat water, but this lake is lined by wall; when waves hit the wall, they come back into the lake instead of breaking on the shore.
“The situation can be rectified by adding grass and rocks,” she explained.