Hangzhou, China – September 18, 2008 – The City of Hangzhou Sports Bureau is pleased to introduce the sport of surfing to this year’s annual Qiantang River Tidal Bore Festival. Three professional American surfers rode the tidal bore through the city limits of Hangzhou and were highly successful.
During the past year, Mr. Zhao Rong Fu, director of the Hangzhou Sports Bureau and Mr. Wei Xing, director of the Chinese National Watersports Center, have been working with Mr. Michael Gerard and his team of professional surfers from the United States. Mr. Gerard is executive director of Surfing America, the national governing body for the sport of surfing in the United States. He is also vice president of the International Surfing Association (“ISA”). The ISA is recognized by the International Olympic Committee as the world governing authority for surfing and has over 50 member nations whose national teams compete in official world championship events annually. Top national teams include the United States, Australia, France, Brazil, and South Africa. ISA is working hard to get surfing included in the Olympic Games sometime in the future—and Mr. Gerard hopes that one day China, too, with have a national surfing team of its own.
“In many ways, the spirit of surfing has always been a part of Chinese culture,” said Mr. Zhao. “Chinese society has always appreciated and respected the harmony of man and nature. And, just as the ancient Chinese rode the river in canoes 8000 years ago, the young western surfers have brought surfing back to China in a more modern and commercially viable way.”
In August of this year, Mr. Gerard brought a team to scout the Qiantang River and give their assessment with regard to safety. This team included professional surfer Brad Gerlach. Gerlach is world famous for surfing the world’s biggest wave in 2006 (21 meters). At the end of this trip, the team concluded that the Qiantang River is safe for surfing and delivered its official report to Hangzhou Sports Bureau.
The sport of surfing is a 6 billion dollar global industry that appeals to young people all over the world. In the United States, surfing is very appealing to teenagers across the nation. Even those living far from the ocean are attracted to the youthful, carefree, lifestyle that surfing and top surf wear brands represent. Surf clothing brands like Quiksilver, Billabong, and others are favorites among young people—even in middle-America where there is no ocean.
“We’re very excited to bring surfing to China,” said Gerard. “Embracing this exciting sport—and its associated lifestyle—will bring many opportunities to both the City of Hangzhou and the country as a whole.”
Mr. Gerard had been working with Mr. Zhao for almost a year on the project and has made three separate trips to China to plan this event.
“Our top priority if safety,” said Gerard. “Surfing on the Qiantang River is for professionals only and involves a tremendous amount of safety planning before each trip. Also, surfing on the river should only be conducted in an organized setting—and jet skis with qualified drivers should always accompany the surfers.”
The professional surfers participating in this year’s Wave Watching Festival are among the best in the world:
- Greg Long is a national champion and was recently awarded for surfing the largest wave ever ridden—over 22 meters tall.
- Rusty Long, Greg’s brother, is also world renowned for big wave surfing and spends nine months out of every year traveling the globe in search of the biggest surf.
- Mark Healey is a top ranked big wave surfer who is world famous for his courage. When not surfing the world’s largest waves, Mark can usually be found swimming with sharks or jumping out of airplanes.
The Qiantang River Tidal Bore Festival provides a great setting to introduce surfing to China because there is a large audience and media exposure already in place.
Bringing surfing to China will provide both business and social benefits. In addition to the development of a new and exciting industry, surfing creates a good outlet for young people’s self expression because it is positive, proactive, and healthy.
Finally, should surfing becomes part of the Olympics in the future, China can be prepared to participate with its own National Team.