Each year, millions of spectators flock to the shore of the Qiantang River in southeastern China to watch the world-renowned tidal bore rush through the city. The bore, caused by a massive tidal shift and the bottleneck shape of Hangzhou Bay (that makes it easy for the tide to flow in, but difficult for it to ebb), is one of the largest known in the world.
This freshwater wave was first surfed in September of 2008, when a group of surfers convinced the Chinese government to allow them to surf there. This year, Jamie Sterling, Mikala Jones, Mary Osborne, and Robert “Wingnut” Weaver travelled to China to become among the rare few to experience the bizarre phenomenon.
Here Mary Osborne recounts the experience:
The wave comes in a very rapid pace with the incoming tide. We time the wave coming toward us, launch the PWCs, head upriver a few miles, then chase it and ride it until it dies. Different parts of the river make for the wave to increase and decrease in size and the way the river is shaped affects it. To put it in perspective, it takes almost 30 minutes from our launching point to get to the part of the wave we are allowed to surf due to restrictions and permits.
When I first saw it coming at me my heart was shaking. It was a giant wall of whitewater in the distance heading right toward our skis. Once it arrived we all were in shock. It was a stunning site. The river is not only huge, but now there is a giant wave spanning completely across it, forcing its way towards us. We ride as long as we can before our legs or the wave givse out, then try to switch partners on the jet ski before the wave crumbles us. There are two police escorts, camera crew on boats aside u,s and two diffeernt jet skis for the surf teams. Big-wave surfers Jaime Sterling and Mikala Jones are one team. I am with partnered with Wingnut, so we are learning how to trade off quickly, maneuver our giant longboards around on a tiny ski, avoid getting attacked by the “Silver Dragon,” while still trying to make it look effortless.
Meanwhile, there are large barges on the river to avoid, metal sticking out in various places due to construction, rocks, four major bridges to dodge, and lots of weather elements in our face.
It is predicted that over a few million viewers will be heading down to watch this natural phenomenon that has been going on for over 300 years. This is the third time in history that surfing has been allowed by the government officials. On a normal full-moon occurrence it is illegal to surf in this river and most likely unsafe for a beginner or average person. Who knows if this will ever change, but the fact that we are here promoting action sports and a healthy lifestyle is a huge start.