Surfing on crest of a wave in China

Tue Dec 4, 2012 4:15pm EST
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By Will Swanton

HAINAN ISLAND, China (Reuters) - A beginner paddles his surfboard out into Hainan Island's warm waters wearing white gloves, a mask and snorkel. Another has his board back-to-front, while a woman wants to wear her leg rope like a dog collar. Surfing has a long way to go in China but there is no denying the sport has a future here.

A year after the Association of Surfing Professionals held its first event in China on the lush, palm-tree lined island, surfing's popularity has blossomed.

Surf schools have sprouted up, an enormous clubhouse sits on the beach at the main break of Riyuewan Bay and grinning Chinese children ride the waves.

"A lot has happened in those 12 months," Darci Liu, the first Chinese surfer to compete in a pro event when the world longboard title was held on Hainan in 2011, told Reuters.

"We did not know if it was real or not. Maybe no one would care. But there really is interest, even more than I expected.

"It is just so different to Chinese people," the former ballerina added.

"We grow up thinking the ocean is something to be scared of, but people are seeing it can be enjoyed."

The ASP's 2011 debut in China attracted worldwide headlines. Liu was profiled by CNN and the New York Times, perfectly scripted in her role of "dancing across the South China Sea".   Continued...

China's Darci Liu is pictured after her heat at the Swatch Girls Pro China surfing competition in Wanning, Hainan Island October 26, 2011. REUTERS/Will Swanton