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Japanese surfer sings praises of Hainan's waves

China Daily | Updated: 2022-05-25 09:17

HAIKOU-Out on in the water, surfers in Wanning city, Hainan province, can often see a familiar "Q" on many of the surfboards. It's the trademark of Chiba Hidenobu, a surfing buff who came all the way from Japan to the tropical island in search of its excellent waves.

The 61-year-old, who hails from Sendai, a renowned spot for surfing in his native Japan, has been taming the turbulent seas on his surfboard since he was 18. In 2010, he decided to settle in Hainan, attracted by its warm climate and clean sea.

The owner of a surfing club in Wanning, he now teaches newbies, repairs broken surfboards and sells wetsuits. He has witnessed the growth of the fledgling surfing community in the once sleepy city over the years. "There's been a real face-lift. It's difficult today to imagine that when I first came here, I had to travel by tractor to get to some of the more remote locations," he said.

At the time, surfing in China was a niche sport, one most people thought of as an obscure hobby.

Though lacking support facilities, Wanning boasts some of the best natural conditions for riding the waves.

"The sea is clean, the average water temperature is around 26.5 C, and the waves are long and strong, with a lot of big breaks. They average between 1.5 to 2 meters in height, making the sea here premium in terms of point breaks and beach breaks," Chiba said.

Wanning has waves all year round and is suitable for beginners, he added. "I visited China for the first time in 2007, and my first must-see place was Hainan. It was winter in Japan, so when I stepped out of the plane and the warm sea wind kissed me softly, I was like 'How marvelous! Finally, I'm in warm and charming southern China!'"

He's been to Hawaii, Australia and many of the world's other renowned surfing spots, but he said that none of them can rival the rise and fall of the waves in Wanning.

It was after reading that Hainan planned to turn itself into a top international tourist destination in 2010 that Chiba decided to take advantage of the golden opportunity the tropical island presented.

Over the years, Wanning has seized the opportunity to develop tourism centered on surfing and other aquatic sports. During the weeklong Spring Festival holiday this year, Riyue Bay-which translates as "Sun and Moon Bay" in Chinese-received 115,500 tourists who came to surf. Dubbed China's surfing capital, Wanning is building a themed "surfing town".

Chiba is also considering opening an art coffee shop and introducing a Japanese diving brand.

"The construction of the Hainan Free Trade Port is in full swing, and I'd like to ride high on this new wave and bring my Chinese surfboard brand to Japanese buyers, while helping more Chinese discover my country's high-tech diving suits," he said, confident of the rosy prospect ahead in Hainan.


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