Growing up on the Great Lakes in Southern Ontario, surfing was always an abstract thing. It was something you did in video games, or watched in movies. It was exotic and a bit magical.
This past weekend the family and I had an opportunity to attend China’s longest running surf competition, the 2012 Skullcandy Surfing Hainan Open. I’ll admit, I had no idea what to expect, but ended up having a blast.
The event took place in Riyuewan, on the south-eastern coast of Hainan, the base of operations for event organizer Surfing Hainan. An hour outside popular beach destination Sanya, and a couple hours drive from the provincial capital Haikou, it’s not the simplest place to get to as a tourist, but for surf, it’s the best known spot on the island.
Stuffed into a van with a load of DJ equipment, we headed down from Haikou late Friday afternoon. Pete, of Haikou’s famed Banana Hostel, was our gracious driver. He swears he tried his best, but unfortunately we arrived too late to take part in the Vans-led beach cleanup. We were, as you might imagine, crushed.
Friday’s pre-competition activities mostly involved getting things setup for the show the following day, meeting new and old friends, and watching a taste of the surfing that was to follow. Those more in-the-know than I explained that the waves were humble but adequate.
The following day things started early. I hit the beach minutes after 8, and the first heat was already in the water. The dark clouds that I noticed on the trip down the day before couldn’t seem to get past Riyuewan’s sceneic surrounding mountains, and the weather was absolutely stunning — something my still-reddish skin can attest to. Eager to make myself useful, I lent a hand dishing out coffee and pancakes in the breakfast tent hosted by Elizabeth from Boao Inn B&B.
Surfing, like a lot of sports, tends to be a lot of waiting punctured with a moment of frantic excitement. I can’t say whether the surfing was good, but it was good to watch. Anticipating smaller waves for Day 2, the event was organized so that the shortboard competition hit the waves on the beach break first, with longboard competitors surfing into the afternoon on the nearby point break.
The afternoon also brought with it an education in another sport I know virtually nothing about — I think I come from the only Commonwealth country that doesn’t really play it — cricket. The Sanya [Beach] Cricket Club came up to Riyuewan and showed us how it’s done — namely, with all-you-can-drink beer. With burgers and hot dogs provided by Sanya’s Dolphin Bar.
By comparison to Day 1, Sunday was a bit more relaxed, with fewer competitions (longboard finals and SUP competition) and the awards ceremony in the afternoon (results below).
None of the surfers failed to impress this novice onlooker, but the two things that really stood out in the competition were (1) the number of young competitors — the youngest being only eight; and (2) the number of Mainland Chinese competitors. Though the Chinese contingent still faithfully monopolized the beach umbrellas, they were out in force proving that the sport and surf culture was being well-adopted in the country.
It was a long weekend in the sun, but it was a riot. Am already looking forward to next November.
The Vans Men’s Shortboard division title was taken by Edouard Moreau from France. There was a strong showing from the under 16s with Joe Keogh finishing in second place.
Joe Keogh also pulled off a victory in the X-Sories Under 16 division. Wolf Wethmeir achieved the runner position in the same event.
X-Sories Men’s Longboard was dominated by Sam Bleakley who took first place, Chen Dong Ming came in second.
The Major Panda Women’s Shortboard was awarded to local stars Bay Bay Niu in first, followed by Zhou Wenling in second.
The local Chinese athletes also did well in the Vans Women’s Longboard. Zhou Wen Ling got first place and Bay Bay came in second.
Judges gave the Major Panda Mixed SUP division title to Chen Dong Ming, and Daniel Lau as runner up.
Wave of the Day was Daniel Lau’s barrel on Saturday. Edouard Moreau won the Best Wipe Out for a nose-first dive. The Best Chinese Female Longboarder was Xiao Xiong, who won a wildcard for the Swatch Girls Pro over November 21-25.
The Best Chinese Men’s Longboarder was Chen Dong Ming, who won a wildcard for the Men’s Longboard Title over November 26-30.
Two wildcards for the January 2013 Hainan Classic were awarded to Wolf Wertheimer and Joe Keogh, both from Hong Kong.