An outstanding opening ceremony that attracted thousands of people to the sands of Riyuewan Bay. The Swatch Girls Pro by Wanning has opened the door of professional surfing to a massive new audience. Photos courtesy of ASP.
While women%u2019s professional surfing has had a tough year with limited sponsors, prize money and events, including no women%u2019s Triple Crown this winter in Hawaii, the ray of sunshine at least for the world%u2019s top longboarders is coming from an unlikely location, Hainan Island, China. Starting today, October 26, 2011, the Swatch Girls Pro China hosted by Wanning has launched professional surfing into the country for the first time, putting on a spectacular show starting with awe-inspriing opening ceremony in Riyuewan Bay, and opening the door for surfing to a massive new audience.
What%u2019s interesting about this event other than the fact that it%u2019s the second of two events on the ASP Women’s World Longboard Tour and the event that will decide the 2011 ASP Women’s World Longboard Champion with top surfers such as Kaitlin Maguire and Chelsea Williams, is it%u2019s the first time for many Chinese to see the sport of surfing live.
Lindsay Steinriede from the USA.
“I heard that the surfing competition was on and I wanted to see what it was,” said a local Chinese woman who lives on the island and had never seen surfing before. “I think I would like to try surfing but I don’t know how to swim. I have never been to the beach before.”
Hainan Island is home to more than 7,000,000 Chinese, with an area of 13,500 square miles. It’s year-round tropical climate and miles of white sandy coastline have earned it the moniker “China’s Hawaii”.
Darci Lui, the first ever Chinese national to compete at an ASP event, lost her heat against 2-time ASP Women’s World Longboard Champion Jennifer Smith. Lui lost the battle, but did the locals proud with hundreds cheering everytime she got to her feet.
“It’s been a great opportunity for me to surf against these girls,” Lui said. “Even though I lost I’m so happy! This is such a great event for China, I’m so proud to have this event here.”
Kassia Meador catches a great wave.
Chelsea Williams (AUS) was the standout performer of the opening day, earning a near perfect 18.80 out of a possible 20. Williams looked right at home on the long left runners, carving and nose-riding bigger and longer than anyone else. Williams will now face Leah Dawson (USA) in the next round.
“I’m pretty surprised I won, I couldn’t hear the announcers out in the water,” Williams said. “I had no idea how I was going until I came into the shore and heard that I’d won. The wave is fun, it’s a little soft left-hander. I love going left because it’s my forehand and I don’t get the chance to go left very often. China is really cool, it’s tropical and not like we expected.”
Lindsay Steinriede (USA) showed why she’s the number one seed, easily defeating Taiwanese trials winner Wen Ling Chou with the second highest score of the day – 14.85 points out of 20.
“I was a little nervous because I know the conditions can be tough out there,” Steinriede said. “On my first wave I was definitely a little jittery, I’d been waiting a while and was excited to get out there. It’s also a while between events and I have a full-time job so you have to switch competition mode off for a little bit, but it doesn’t take long to turn it back on.”
Continued good surf is expected tomorrow and will likely see competition run to completion, culminating in the crowning of both an ASP World Longboard Champion and a Swatch Girls Pro China Champion.
In addition to great surfing, an extravagant opening ceremony took place yesterday on the sands of Riyuewan Bay. Thousands of locals joined the Mayor of Wanning to celebrate the first ever ASP event in China. Festivities included a live pop star performer, a Chinese dance troop and daytime fireworks.
More from the opening ceremony.