Looking Back on the Hainan Classic

Historic Surfing Festival in China Comes to a Close After a Successful Eight Days of Surfing, Entertainment and Culture.

Fernando Aguerre (third from left), congratulates Team Australia after winning the ISA China Cup and the team gold medal. Photo: ISA/Billy Watts.

Talks of a Bigger and Better Festival for 2013 Are Well Underway

Hainan Wanning Riyue Bay International Surfing Festival presented by Quiksilver
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Wanning, Hainan Island, China

After eight memorable days of surfing, entertainment, food and creating new friendships, the inaugural Hainan Wanning Riyue Bay International Surfing Festival presented by Quiksilver, and organized by the ISA, has come to a close. The first major surfing event in China was a total success and the ISA is confident it will return to Riyue Bay in 2013.

"Without a doubt I can say that China has made a grand entrance into the surfing family. With the hosting of the first ever joint ISA and ASP surfing festival in history, China has already made a permanent impact in surfing's world," said Fernando Aguerre, the president of the ISA, in his closing remarks. "Most importantly, this Surfing Festival has signaled the arrival in China of surfing and its powerful and influential lifestyle culture. It is my personal hope and desire that China will embrace surfing and the beach culture, as part of China's already very rich culture."

The two-event Festival was the execution of the dream of Aguerre, as part of his global mission to spread surfing and the aloha spirit throughout the world. Part of fulfilling that dream required finding the right partners to bring it to fruition. The historical event was produced in cooperation with important Chinese media and sports partner, Womei Media, and supported by the governments of Hainan Province and Wanning City. The Festival was presented by Quiksilver.

"Quiksilver has been in China for 10 years now and we are committed to the development of boardriding sports within this region," said Greg Healy, the president of Quiksilver Asia-Pacific, who attended the ISA Opening Ceremony and the first event of the Festival, the ISA China Cup. "After bringing such amazing events to China as Danny Way's skateboard jump over the Great Wall on the MegaRamp in 2005, it was a natural fit for us to get on board in bringing the largest surfing event ever to the region. The event has been an absolute showcase of the possibilities China has within the surfing world and we are thrilled to be a part of it. All elements came together perfectly to deliver an amazing event with high performance surfing at it's best, in world class waves. The uniqueness of the combined format of ISA and ASP events made it even more exciting for spectators everywhere. Now it's evident what China can offer our sport and we look forward to the exciting ride of developing surfing in China."

The Festival opened in grand fashion, with an elaborate Opening Ceremony produced by Wanning City, complete with multiple choreographed dances, musical performances, a spectacular firework show, and a gourmet dinner for competitors, event officials, and Chinese government leaders, including the Hainan Province Party Secretary, the highest ranking official in the province.

From Day 1, Ireland's Glenn Hall was one of the in-form surfers of the Hainan Classic, treating the long, left-hand pointbreak waves like his personal skatepark while on the way to his greatest surfing victory. Photo: ISA/Agustin Munoz.

At the inaugural ISA China Cup, National Teams from the top 8 qualifying nations competed for individual and team gold medals. In the Open Women, Peru's Sofia Mulanovich, the 2004 ISA and ASP World Champion, was dominant from day 1 to day 3, winning the gold. In the Men's Open, Heath Joske put on an outstanding display of surfing in the final, securing himself the individual gold medal and leading Australia to the team gold medal, along with the ISA China Cup trophy.

"I was stoked when I got the call up for this event because no way in the world did I ever think I'd come to China, so I was pretty pumped to actually check out the place and see what it was all about," said Joske, following his win. "To get a win in the inaugural event, an historical event - I'm stoked."

In the first Hainan Classic, an ASP 4-Star organized by the ISA, surfers from 19 countries competed for a piece of the $95,000 USD prize-purse. While many of the competitors admitted they had assumed there would be little in terms of fun, contestable surf, Day 1 at the left-hand point break wave at Riyue Bay greeted the competitors with head-high waves that ran for nearly 200 yards. By the final day, Glenn Hall, the lone Irishman in the event, was left holding the jade dragon trophy and the $15,000 winner's check.

"China's been amazing, I was honestly stoked to come here regardless of the contest, but to come here and have fun, uncrowded waves, was great. The first couple days were two-foot and fun then it got to four-foot and pumping and then it got bigger and it's just been a good week," said Hall, after his win, which was the highest-rated ASP event win by an Irish surfer. "I'm pumped, it's been the funnest week of surfing, so to have a win and a check to go with it is amazing."

But the Festival wasn't just about who was winning trophies and big checks, or even about who was getting the best rides (France's Marc Lacomare, with his Perfect 10, the first in China's pro surfing history), this event was about spreading a sport to a part of the world where it had not yet been given the chance to grow. This event was about people like Yu Miao, better known as "Jack," who paddled out in Heat 6 of the first round of the Hainan Classic. Jack was the first-ever Chinese male surfer to compete in an ASP contest.

"I came to this island two years ago and there was nobody, just me and a couple other friends, and at most 3 or 4 people in the water, and now I see so many people; it's getting so popular, it's exciting to be involved and see surfing start to grow in China," said Jack, following his heat.

From Day 1, the Chinese organizers showed tremendous hospitality. They presented a full Festival package, which included a diverse array of musical performances, a fashion show, and the Taste of Hainan, which included various local fare. Plus, the wave further up the point from the contest site amazed everyone involved in the biggest surfing event ever to come to China. It was a left hand, sand-bottom barrel that had competitors calling it "Kirra left!"

"The whole world has watched in delight the wonderful waves and surfing in China. It is the intention of the ISA, to come back to Hainan, to Riyue Bay early next year, with the second edition of the Surfing Festival, and continue our partnership with Womei and the People's Republic of China," Aguerre said. "When we the surfers arrived in China over one week ago, we were not prepared for the formidable and warm welcome we received. Tomorrow we will all go home as ambassadors of China and its wonderful people. Xie-xie China, xie-xie Hainan, xie-xie Wanning."