China: surfing is growing fast

China has some of the best athletes in the world, but surfing is still taking its first steps into the mainstream. Here's how it looks in 2017.

In Zhuhai, a city located in the South China Sea, there is a surf spot called Golden Beach, which is very suitable for surfing beginners, and it's one of the few places where it is allowed to surf in the region.

A Cai is a 37-year-old surfer from the neighboring city of Jiangmen. He is an electrical engineer, a father of two children, and one of the very few surfers who catch waves on this beach.

Cai has been surfing at Golden Beach for almost four years. He is very familiar with the spot and has become an experienced wave rider.

This is the story of A Cai and his surfing dream.

Golden Beach: A Cai checks out the waves at his favorite surf break

In China, when you talk about surfing, the first impression people get is a TV show in which crazy men defy very big waves or get barreled.

So, whenever you mention surfing to a friend or relative, the first word that comes to their mind is "danger!" In China, surfing represents the crazy adventurer and the person who pursues excitement.

A Cai learned to surf in a famous surfing club in Shenzhen and quickly became totally addicted.

In the beginning, he had no idea which beach near his hometown was good for surfing.

Nobody could be consulted or given any suggestions to him because, in his circle of friends, nobody knew anything about surfing.

A Western Sport in a Conservative Country

To make things even worse, there is very limited information about surfing online, so he searched for the ideal beach all by himself, traveling the coastline with his newly bought surfboard.

However, A Cai soon found out that because of the economic development in the Zhujiang Delta, cargo ports and fishing farms had been built on the best surfing beaches.

There are only a few paid-access beaches that survived industrial construction, so when A Cai arrived and saw good waves, he became excited and grabbed his board immediately.

However, the local management staff spotted him and blocked him from surfing due to safety reasons. He continued visiting other beaches and was turned down again and again.

Until he found Golden Beach. 

Golden Beach: one of the few spots in the south of China where surfing is not prohibited

When Cai got there, he was surprised by a surf club run by a Russian. The facility was closed two years ago because there were not enough surfers.

But he had finally found a place where he was allowed to surf and ended up making new friends.

Since then, A Cai has become a regular face at Golden Beach and has continued improving his skills for four consecutive years.

The road to surfing in China is not easy, but A Cai had found his home break.

Initially, his family didn't understand him, and his mother believed that, at his age, he should be focused on a career instead of playing with surfboards out in the sea. 

But that was not the life A Cai expected. The Chinese surfer was tired of his country's traditional lifestyle.

Unlike most of Chinese citizens who study hard from a very young age, work hard in middle age, and then retire when they get old, he discovered that life makes sense in the water.

Although Chinese people don't dare to try, A Cai was looking for something different.

That was the main reason why he decided to surf and, as time went by and he insisted on a different way of life, his family started understanding him.

A Cai: a passionate Chinese surfer who dreams of founding a surf club

A Cai's surfing experience proved that as a middle-aged man, life is not just all about a boring workplace, earning money, and raising a family. It can also involve surfing.

A Cai lived through a lot of challenges to persuade his family to support his love of surfing.

As a dedicated surfer, he developed his quiver - five surfboards (ranging from beginner to advanced models) - bought a waterproof surf camera and built equipment for practicing balance and flexibility during flat days.

Times of Change

When the surf forecast indicates good conditions, he has to drive 90 minutes to the beach and spend a lot of money on gas.

But he just loves it so much that it's okay for him - surfing is already part of his life.

A Cai has also built a small circle of surf friends from different areas of the Guangdong Province.

There are not too many people surfing in China right now, so it's never easy to look out for potential partners.

Golden Beach: China has great waves even during summer

But those who share the same passion for riding waves have already booked fixed weekend dates to enjoy the waves together and have a barbecue with beer to discuss how to improve their skills in the water.

At the beginning of 2017, they even planned to find an amateur surfing club, but after a few consultations and discussions, they understood that it's not easy to do it.

It requires a substantial amount of money, and approval from the local government administration authority is always extremely difficult.

The authorities are worried about safety issues because accidents may affect the promotions and careers of some management officers.

Nevertheless, A Cai and his friends are still trying to set up the first surfing club at their local break. This is their ultimate goal, and they will try everything to make their dream come true.

A Cai: he bought a waterproof camera to capture his lonely surfing sessions

A Cai told his friends: "It will not be easy for our generation to reach the world stage, but hopefully, the next generation will see professional Chinese surfers competing at the highest level."

"That's why if we set up a surfers' club - and insist on advocating surfing sports in China, although some will not understand what we are doing now - the day will come when we will know that the work and efforts we are making today will be worth it."

Surfing in China is slowly changing, and one day, they will certainly win heats.

Until then, A Cai is waiting for you at Golden Beach and looking forward to surfing and learning from all surfers from around the world.

Words by David Xu | Surfer from Zhuhai, China

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