Qiu Zhuo: the 16-year-old dreams of reaching the Championship Tour | Photo: Hain/WSL

Qiu Zhuo became the first Chinese athlete to advance through in a major World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) event.

Zhuo secured a second-place finish in his Round 1 heat of the 2020 Corona Open China, held in Riyue Bay, Wanning.

The Chinese needed a 4.27 to get past Jackson Butler. In the final minutes, a good wave came, and he locked in a 4.50.

The 16-year-old surfer knows he has a shot at winning a 5,000-level event on his home turf.

"I am really happy right now and excited this being the first time WSL has had a big contest here," said Zhuo.

"I just want to represent my country, and it feels pretty good to make it past the first heat. I was a little bit nervous, but I talked to my coach, and it feels way better when they tell me what to do - catch better waves and just do what you can do."

"[Surfing against these surfers] gives me more experience. I want to be on the Championship Tour when I'm older. It's something I'll try my best at."

Riyue Bay: Hainan Island's tropical surfing paradise | Photo: WSL

Wave Pools and Hard Training

China is working hard to become a relevant player in the surfing world. The country built its own wave pool and is preparing its athletes for the world stage.

Qiu Zhuo was one of the ten surfers representing China at the men's event. On the women's side, Huang Yingying, 20, is one of the six carrying the Chinese flag.

Riyue Bay, located in the province of Wanning, delivers a consistent and long, dreamy left-hand wave on Hainan Island.

Thanks to the relentless northeast tradewinds, the South China Sea peak breaks daily during winter, boosted by occasional typhoon swells.

The Chinese tropical surfing paradise features palm-tree-lined beaches surrounded by stunning mountainous forests and high-end holiday resorts.

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