LEARNING TO SURF IN CHINA
When I arrive in Riyuewan (The Sun and the Moon bay) in Hainan, China’s coconut island, I’m struck in awe by the colors. The azure blue sky spreads over the pale turquoise sea whose waves lazily roll at the beach of fine, golden sand, and the whole view is framed by palm trees. The air is fresh and moist, and the beach is almost deserted.
Riyuewan is a small village 100km east of Sanya, the tourist hotspot, and 180km south of Haikou, the capital of Hainan. The main road of Riyuewan, lined by palm trees and less than 10 kilometers in length, follows the coastline and passes by a couple of restaurants, fruitstalls, the Riyue Bay surf club, a hotel and some guesthouses, and ends up at the East end of the bay. No supermarkets or ATMs. Nearest city, Wanning, is reached by a bus that operates every half an hour.
It gets even better: I’ve heard that there’s surf around the year over here. I have arrived at the end of September, a bit before the Golden week and the tourist peak, a time when the waves are small. Perfect for me, as I’ve never surfed before. I’m going to volunteer at the Riyuewan Surf Club for the upcoming three months, and duck-dive into the world of surfing.
After an introduction to the basics, that is, how to carry the board, attach the leash, position yourself on the board, paddle and pop up on the board into the right surf stance, we’re off to the ocean. The hardest part is actually catching the waves, which means serious workout for the arms. It’s tough. But once I finally manage to catch a wave, pop up and ride the wave for what feels like an eternity, I can’t help but squeel out of excitement. This is so much fun!
And there really is surf almost every day. Just when the waves are getting too small, a typhoon brings bigger waves for the more experienced. Some days the sea goes flat, but everyone goes out anyways, for the fun of riding even the smallest of waves.
On one of those flat evenings we’re all out in the sea with our boards, waiting for the waves to come. I rest my eyes on the view of the golden sunset, that makes the sea. “Caihong!”, someone yells, and I turn my gaze to East, where my friend is pointing. A beautiful rainbow arches across the sky, bright and deep in its colors. There, in the middle of the bay, floating in the sea of liquid gold with the other surfers, I realize that surfing is not only about the actual surfing. It’s about enjoying the sea and the nature in good company.
When I feel like taking a break from surfing, I wander out in the the surrounding hills that are covered by pineapple plantations and tropical forest. There’s a ghost hotel at the tip of the Eastern cape, a multiple-storey building that was abandoned even before its completion. Now it serves as a solitary watchtower offering a view over both Riyue bay and Shimei bay on the East of the cape. Then there are the nearby villages, where you can go for a swim under a waterfall, and enjoy the Xinglong coffee, delicious lemonade and coconut cakes.
The relaxed rhythm is about to change. After the Golden week the winds start to blow, and the waves grow from less than one meter to three meters. The surfing season is about to start. Several surfing competitions are held in November and December. It’s exciting to get to see how the atmosphere, and especially the ocean changes in the course of the following months.
One thing will remain the same, though, which is our desire to enjoy the beach and the surf in good company!
HOW TO GET THERE
Taxi from Sanya costs 250-300MB (~1,5hr), from Haikou 300-350RMB (~2hrs)
Train from Sanya to Wanning 35RMB, from Haikou to Wanning 60RMB + taxi from Wanning to Riyuewan 80RMB
Bus from Sanya 40RMB (~2hrs), from Haikou 60RMB (~3hrs)
For learning any time of the year is good. Check the surf forecast in advance at
The best surfing season is from November to April
Surf lesson 400RMB
Surf/SUP/body board rental 50-200RMB/hr
Accommodation (hostel with dorms/private rooms, hotel)
There are no ATMs or supermarkets in Wanning
The club accepts Unionpay and credit cards
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