Sanya Supplement: Surf's Up, Sanya

Known for its sun, sea and sand, Sanya continues to grow in the minds of both Chinese and international travellers alike as one of China’s most prominent tourist getaways. However, Sanya and nearby Riyue Bay have also become known as popular surfing destinations, hosting China’s annual Surfing Hainan Open. Talk spoke with Surfing Hainan’s founder Brendan Sheridan.

Given the choice of being a beach bum or China’s surfing ambassador, Brendan Sheridan laughs and says, “Both? I wouldn't feel right just being a beach bum. I need to be more productive than that!” And Sheridan has certainly been productive in promoting surfing in the Hawaii of China, establishing China’s very first international surfing event, the Surfing Hainan Open, and with it, founding Sanya’s first surf shop. Recently, he moved his business from Sanya to Riyue Bay, an undeveloped stretch of beach approximately one hour outside of Sanya. “I moved the shop up to Riyue Bay in December of last year. Sanya only gets surf in the summer months. Up here in Riyue Bay, there is surf all year round.”

Not only are the breaks (areas where waves begin to form) at Riyue Bay prominent year round, they also cover a range of difficulties, making it possible for surfers of all levels to catch a wave. This was one of the things that attracted Sheridan to the area. “My first time here, I was pretty stoked to see a stretch of beach with a lot of different breaks, including a few great point breaks.” However, Sheridan is quick to note that he wasn’t the first one to discover the place. “There had already been people coming to surf in Riyue Bay before I moved here. Monran Surf, a Japanese surf company and board manufacturer, had been doing tours here with Japanese surfers for a while.”

Sans the occasional appearance of international surfers in the know, Sheridan had to start from scratch when building a surf spot at Riyue Bay. In fact, when he was starting out, most locals had little idea of what surfing even was. “Most of them had never seen it before, even on TV. There isn't a person in Europe or the States who doesn't know what the basic idea is: paddle, catch a wave, stand up and ride. But here a lot of people simply had no idea. Just the basic concept that you ride the wave towards the beach isn't commonly known; I often had, and still have to start from the very beginning when giving lessons.”

Still, interest in the sport in China has grown in leaps and bounds as more and more Chinese surfers flock to Sanya and appear in the Surfing Hainan Open on Riyue Bay. “The first year we [held the tournament we] only had two Chinese surfers; last year we had fifteen out of 40. This year there should be 20 Chinese surfers.” In addition, Chinese surfing stars are beginning to come into their own. Sheridan recommends fans of the sport take a look at Tie Zhuang, hailing from Inner Mongolia. “[He] has lived and surfed in Hainan for five years now, and is the one Chinese surfer that really dedicates himself most to the sport. He's pretty humble too; he just wants to go out and rip; he doesn't need to be famous.”

The surfing scenes in Sanya and Riyue Bay look as if they are only going to continue to grow, but the question remains: is the secret out? Sheridan says without hesitation, “The secret is out.”


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