Ballerina reveals beauty of surfing to China

Wed Oct 26, 2011 11:38am EDT
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By Will Swanton

HAINAN ISLAND, China (Reuters) - A ballerina "danced across the sea" to introduce professional surfing to China on Wednesday.

Darci Liu received a wildcard for the first event held in her homeland by the Association of Surfing Professionals, and she was swarmed by spectators as she emerged from the water after an opening round defeat by San Diego's Jennifer Smith.

"I feel very grateful and very proud to have had the chance to surf here and to compete against a champion like Jennifer," Liu told Reuters. "She is the best surfer in the world and this is the biggest day of my life.

"I want more people in China to know about surfing and this is the start. It is a graceful and beautiful sport, it is dancing across the sea.

"I have not been surfing very long so I feel like the baby of the event, but the baby is very excited. It's why I have a smile on my face that will last a long time."

Liu studied ballet at the Hubei Provincial Art School before dancing professionally in Guangdong in 2006. It was only the following year that Liu, from Hainan Island, was encouraged by her Californian husband to catch her first wave.

She created a slice of history here by becoming the first Chinese surfer to compete in an ASP event -- the Swatch Girls Pro China is doubling as the women's longboard world championship.

"These surfers will be remembered as pioneers," said Brodie Carr, the Association of Surfing Professionals chief executive. "We thought China was an impossible place for us to enter, but we've done it. We're here and this is just the beginning.   Continued...

<p>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</p>