Stab Magazine | Unlikely Surf Scene: Hong Kong
1226 Views

Unlikely Surf Scene: Hong Kong

Lineups full of girls!

Words by stab

Isn’t there just something about waves in unlikely places that taps your inner-adventurist? Sure, there’s plenty of familiar surf destinations that you’ve seen on the webcast or in surf films. But it’s the less obvious locations that stir the most curiosity: Italy, Russia, India, Taiwan… Hong Kong. HK? Yeah! An engaging read was just published by the South China Morning Post about the genesis and evolution of Hong Kong’s surf scene.

Now, surfing’s nothing new there. Anthony Hownam-Meek was president of the Hong Kong Surf Club from 1978 to 1982: “Back then the surfing scene was tiny – the club never had more than 13 members,” he tells the the SCMP. “Only two girls surfed but more came for the ambience and privacy for nude sunbathing. We’d skive off school to bodyboard at Big Wave Bay as teenagers. The teacher would say: ‘There’s a signal three tomorrow, so gentlemen I assume you’ll be ill as usual?’”

It was raw back then. In the early ’80s, the corpses of illegal immigrants who’d died trying to reach Hong Kong from China would occasionally float into the lineup. Surfers would also make the most of the swell that typhoons would bring, much to the ire of local authorities. “I had a letter published in the SCMP about 1979 arguing that it was illogical to red-flag surfing at beaches when it was rough, concluding, ‘do you really expect surfers to wait for a nice calm day to go surfing?’” Anthony recalls. He also became the HK link for Surfer mag: “I made weekly reports on wave conditions. In return I got weekly reports from everywhere else in the world.”

The surf scene in HK has taken an interesting evolutionary trajectory. Kenny Howe, an American who went to Hong Kong 16 years ago, tells the SCMP: “In 1999, locals wore the China special one-piece swimsuit. No one wore bikinis, no one tanned. Now it’s all about surf fashion, bikinis, tans, tattoos, and mobs in the water trying to surf on a weekend. I’ve counted up to 80 people at once in the water.”

58972326 594ec0eb3b o

Big Wave Bay doesn’t live up to its name, but there’s certainly fun to be had. Photo: Jesse Warren

“Every second logo you see on a T-shirt or backpack is surf-related,” says long-time local Sam Pleitgen. “It’s hip and marketable, and everyone wants to be in on it. I’m asked by more and more people how and where they can learn to surf.”

There’s even an O’Neill store at the MTR bus stop, where you’ll board to go surf Big Wave Bay and Shek O.

So, what sucks about surfing in Hong Kong? Well, for starters, the waves are fickle and far from world-class. And aside from some anxiety over a shark sighting off Lantau this month, marine pollution and waste are a constant problem. There’s also the dangerous dynamic present in any lineup where the sport is still relatively young: “A momentary lapse of concentration once cost me 17 stitches and a shattered nose,” Sam told the SCMP. “About a month later, the surgeon who administered the stitches, himself a surfer, was taken into surgery having been partially scalped by a surfboard fin.”

But, aside from some real user-friendly waves when conditions are right (and certainly better than nothing if you happen to be stationed in HK for work), upside is, the lineup is full of girls, like locals Cathy Ho and Rei Chan Wai. “Eat healthy, go to bed early, rise early, catch waves, repeat,” says Cathy, who quit her office job to be a lifeguard and surf through summer, using winter to chase waves around the world.

Lantau Island, Shek O, Big Wave Bay and Tai Long Wan in Sai Kung are the spots you wanna aim for. If surf camps are your thing, Surf Hong Kong (ateamedventures.com) do ‘em well, as does Treasure Island Surf Camp on Pui O Beach, Lantau. “Most of my sign-ups are young girls,” says surf instructor Antony Dickson.

A culture shock on land, a lineup full of girls, and some exotic scenery? Time your trip with a summer typhoon and Hong Kong might be worth surfing for novelty factor alone.

tlw

Tai Long Wan gets lit. Photo: Becky Fox / surfworktravel.com

Comments

Comments are a Stab Premium feature. Gotta join to talk shop.

Already a member? Sign In

Want to join? Sign Up

Advertisement

Most Recent

Craig Anderson On Starting Businesses, Personal Evolution, And A Surf Edit’s Ability To Shape Our World

"If you left it all up to the WSL, surf culture would be doomed."

Dec 5, 2021

5 More People Just Qualified For The 2022 CT

The Haleiwa Challenger sees 8/12 spots sealed for next season.

Dec 5, 2021

Surfing Can Put You In A Flow State Which Optimizes Your Entire Life, Or Perhaps Not

Stab's resident neuroscientist unpacks 'flow' for us.

Dec 4, 2021

And The Winners Of Snapt4’s Best Barrel And Monster Maneuver Are…

$10k for you, and you!

Dec 4, 2021

Pete Mel: “I Was Always Poking The Bear — I Just Wanted Attention”

Jump on the pod with surfing's (secretly) most interesting man.

Dec 3, 2021

The Eurozone Crisis

Why isn’t such a wave-rich continent producing more World Tour surfers?

Dec 3, 2021

Have You Ever Experienced Surf Guilt?

You really should be surfing more.

Dec 2, 2021

That’s A Nice Reef Break You’ve Got There, Would Be A Shame If I Parked My Big Fucken Boat On It

Why a torched port expansion in the Canary Islands threatens waves, marine life, and surf…

Dec 2, 2021

We’d Take This 3-Board Timmy Patterson Quiver Anywhere In The World (But Especially Indo)

Testing the Synthetic '84, Stoke-Ed, and Step-Up models in the Ments.

Dec 2, 2021

So Who Won Stab Highway?

Breaking down the facts and figures from our first cohort.

Dec 2, 2021

You’ll Want To Watch The Trailer For Peter Hamblin’s New Film, ‘Sweet Adventure’

Then the whole thing at the London Surf Film Festival (free tickets available inside).

Dec 1, 2021

Watch: Everything & All — The Peter Mel Story

An unflinchingly honest account of one of surfing's most familiar, but little known, characters.

Nov 30, 2021

Halfway Through Haleiwa, What’s The Qualification Picture Look Like?

And how did a surfer who lost move up the leaderboard?

Nov 30, 2021

A Photo Essay You’ll Peruse From Cover To Cover After A Christmas Ham And Too Many Chardonnays

Treat yourself or a friend to vol. 2 of ‘Craig’ by John Respondek.

Nov 30, 2021

Breaking: The Eddie Will Go (Assuming There’s Waves)

Iconic Waimea event given the green light by organizers for winter 2021/22.

Nov 30, 2021

9:49

Watch: Jaleesa Vincent Is A Strong Contender For SSOTY

‘Eerie’ is a funky lil’ surf edit from the MVP of Stab Highway.

Nov 29, 2021

Give The Gift Of Stab Premium

Eco friendly and immune to supply chain sickness.

Nov 29, 2021

Surfers Can (Help) Change The World

Four surf-based activists explain why, and how, surfers can get politically involved.

Nov 29, 2021
Advertisement