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Hangzhou to host star surfers on national holidays

Updated: 2012-09-29 13:33
By Tang Zhe ( China Daily)

The Qiantang River will host a surfing gala during the national holidays.

Sixteen surfers from four teams - GoPro Hawaii and Wabsono California from the United States, OE Great Barrier Reef from Australia and Brazil's Roxy Amazon - will compete in the Red Bull Qiantang Surfing Shootout in Hangzhou from Oct 1-3.

The event is the only river-surfing competition in the world and is expected to attract more than 200,000 spectators along the banks as the tidal bore, more dramatically known as the "Silver Dragon", reaches its annual peak.

According to Glenn Brumage, vice-president of the International Association of Skateboard Companies, the Qiantang event, started in 2009 as an exhibition event, has changed into a legitimate surfing competition under the sponsorship of energy drink Red Bull this year, and the participating teams have increased from two to four.

"It's an incredible experience to be here in China and to surf this tidal bore - there is nothing like it that I've ever experienced," said American surfer Mary Osborne. "(The tidal bore) is always changing, you are not quite sure what's going to happen with the river and I think it makes things so exciting and it's definitely one of the most adventurous things I get to do."

Different from the larger but shorter duration waves of the sea, Qiantang River enables surfers to ride continuously for almost two hours.

"When surfing big waves, obviously, there is a lot more water, the waves are a lot taller, you go a lot faster on big waves. But the river is a combination of river and ocean water, and the river waves go much farther than ocean waves. It will push you for two hours, and I caught the longest waves of my life in the river," said American big-wave surfer Jamie Sterling, who first surfed the Qiantang River in 2009, and is taking part in his third challenge.

Regarding safety issues, Zhao Rongfu, the head of Hangzhou Municipal Sports Bureau, said every surfer would have two jet skis, a speedboat and another vessel ahead of him or her. Three aid stations are set along the banks, and the surfers are not allowed to get within 150m of each bank.

Zhao also said the government is aiming to attract the public, especially youngsters, to the sport.

Bao Xuping, CEO of organizer Surfing China, and a surfing enthusiast as well, echoed Zhao's sentiments.

"I am able to surf on some sections of the Qiantang River and, as we acquire more knowledge about the river, we are expecting to start to bring up some Chinese surfers next year - the process will be scientific and systematic," Bao said.

"For example, we might choose some safer sections and let local surfers take a try in the river when the tide is small. I really hope we will have Chinese surfers participating in the competition next year."

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