Stab Magazine | Guess Who Won $25k For River Surfing In China

Guess Who Won $25k For River Surfing In China

Red Bull’s Silver Dragon surf event is still going strong!

news // Oct 7, 2018
Words by stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

What does surfing look like in the 21st Century? Could be a wave pool. Could be a river bore in China. It certainly ain’t sniffing model glue and eating cat food waiting for swell at Honolua. (Yes, that’s happened, 1970s, early days. We missed the boat.)

For some years there’s been a weird contest in Hangzhou, China. It’s evolved around the “Silver Dragon” tidal bore, which remains off limits and illegal to Chinese citizens. At some point the government and a marketing agency figured out they could attract a loose cadre of international pro surfers to come ride the wave, tempt the non-surfing locals, run a sidebar skate comp, and make it a global action sports spectacle.

Utilizing a team format, this year’s incarnation saw Dean Morrison and Koby Abberton take out an eclectic field of eight other pairings to take home a $25,000 first-place check. However the taxes work out, it’s still a good payday for the semi-retired two Aussies.

Screen Shot 2018 10 05 at 8.19.52 PM

It ain’t quite Red Bull Cape Fear, but the boys will take a victory nonetheless.


Jean Paul Van Swae

We don’t need to get into the nuances of the format…does anyone really need to understand what the judges are looking for on a mile-long tidal bore in China? Guessing no.

The fact of the business is that Dingo and Koby beat Euro swell chasers Eneko Acero and Natxo Gonzales, who got second, and POV tube hounds Alex Gray and Anthony Walsh, who got third.

The other notable in the event was Mikala Jones, who after struggling with back issues the past few years was back in the water and reportedly surfing well. Him and his partner, Jamie Sterling, finished seventh. Sterling has been surfing the wave probably longer than anyone.

Obviously, what happens in China stays in China, but the big money ticket may have been when Koby allegedly had enough of Alex Gray’s nonsense and got a little snippy with the South Bay kid. Because the wave is tidal and not ocean dependent, there’s significant down time. That’s seldom a good thing on any surf trip, especially when there are personalities that don’t mesh. Who knows what happened. Our sources weren’t obliged to go into detail. But with Koby and Alex, it wasn’t all high-fives and shakas…which is kind of what competition is all about.

That’s not going into the press release, which is unfortunate because it would have made for good copy. What’s also not going in the press release is that apparently the wave wasn’t all that smoking this year. The wind and mud flats weren’t what they’ve been in year’s past. At its best, the Silver Dragon’s an insane wave with spitting, hollow sections, well overhead faces for big carves, and it just keeps going and going and going.

But as noted, it’s also illegal to surf any other time of the year. More than anything, access is going to be the challenge to surfing opening up in China. The government’s going to have to chill and open up rivers and beaches. Look at the weird river surfing culture that’s evolved in Idaho or Germany. There’s a whole subculture or rad humans that live for those trippy, freshwater waves.

The Silver Dragon may be the best river wave in the world. It legitimately pumps and has attracted big-name, big-wave surfers for years, when are the Chinese locals going to get a crack at it? That’s the big question.


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