Although a huge majority of our surf gear comes from China—including many of our boards (a dirty little secret the industry doesn’t want us to know)—the country has a surfing population that is practically nonexistent. While this is likely to change in the next few years, for the time being at least the waves in China can be enjoyed solo by anyone intrepid enough to venture there—and despite what you may think, there are plenty of good waves to be had in the land of the dragon!
The Surf: While the majority of China’s known coastline plays host to small, unimpressive beach break picking up (at best) short interval wind swell, Hainan island is quickly gaining a reputation with traveling surfers and others in the know. The “Hawaii of China,” Hainan is a tropical island with beach break and point setups, and has recently been deemed worthy of ASP-level competition, as both men’s and women’s longboard world tour events are being held there this year. (*Although Taiwan is typically associated with China, for the sake of this guide they will be thought of as two separate zones.
Five Waves Worth Surfing:
- Yab-J: “J-Bay” backwards, this left hand point has big aspirations. Although definitely not a left hand Jeffery’s, it’s a decent point in the Riyue Bay area.
- Main Point: Hainan’s most well-known wave, this left point in Riyue plays host to the annual Surfing Hainan Open, and more recently the Swatch Girl’s Pro and ISA events.
- Dadonghai: One of the most popular beaches on Hainan, Dadonghai is located in central Sanya, and is typically a small, subpar beach break crowded with expats and local swimmers, but is worth a visit simply for the experience of surfing a popular Chinese beach.
- Ghost Hotel: Purportedly Hainan’s best waves, this heavy left is also in Riyue Bay, and can produce draining barrels when the conditions are good.
- Quintang River bore, Hangzhou: China has one of the world’s best bore tide waves, which can offer rides up to two miles in length.
The Water: While the water in much of China is pretty dirty, Hainan Island has more of a tropical, undeveloped feel, and the water clarity reflects this. Water temps are typically above 80 F (27 C).
The Season: For real swell with a decent interval, you will be looking for typhoons between July and September—although quality waves have been recorded at other times of the year as well.
The Vibe: Hainan is becoming more popular with visiting surfers, and is booming as a Chinese holiday resort destination. With this development comes more crowding, and locals are starting to surf as well—but for the most part this is one of the mellower scenes out there.
Things To Do: China is a massive country, and for its size doesn’t see a lot of tourists, which can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on what you are looking for. Must-sees include the Great Wall and the terracotta army in Beijing, and the Yellow Mountains of Huangshan.
Where To Stay: Hainan is set up for visiting surfers, and you will have no problem arranging accommodations. Traveling mainland China is a different story, however. Few people speak English, and hotels can be both expensive and difficult to arrange (largely because of the language barrier). Try booking ahead online for major cities.
What To Bring: A stubby shortboard or fish and a longboard. All of your own surf accessories, including repair supplies. Warm water gear. A copy of Lonely Planet’s Guide to China. A good dose of patience and a willingness to try the exotic.
Getting There: Major airports on the mainland include Hong Kong and Beijing, Hainan also sees flights from international destinations such as Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, as well as various cities in Australia. You can also take a train from Guangzhou—a unique experience that involves having the train loaded onto a ferry! Visas can be pricey depending on your home country, and should be arranged before arrival. Airport codes: HKG (Hong Kong), PEK (Beijing), and HAK (Haikou, Hainan).