A nation that fails to fail is heavily investing in surfing whether we want to believe it or not.
On a sunny afternoon on January 25, 2019, the first artificial wave peeled off Qingfeng Extreme Sports Base in the town of Puyang in Henan Province in China. The base is a USD $26-million-dollar project from the Government that involves constructing facilities for surfing, skateboarding, rock climbing and BMX for athletes from across the country to participate in training ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.
The wave may have underwhelmed when compared what we’ve come to expect from the wave pool space race. However, it certainly took design cues from Kelly’s Surf Ranch and Wavegarden technology, and like Slater’s broke miles from the coastline.
Considering that China is well behind the curve when it comes to surfing many may brush off the experiment as national enthusiasm. However, one source on the ground who has spent time with the Chinese National Surf Team assures Tracks that the country is taking a serious interest in the sport and that spending doesn’t end with the wave pool investment.
“Every province has a team and most training takes place at the same beach as it’s the only place with waves in China) and there’s 15-20 surfers on each team. It’s like they’re training up an army of surfers! [Laughs].”
“Everything is regimented! Between 9am and 11am there’s about 100 people surfing. At lunchtime there’s no one out! Then the same thing happens in the afternoon,” says our source.
“Sunday’s the best day to surf as it’s their day off so no one even goes to the beach.”
An army of Chinese surfers sounds frightening. How many Filipe Toledo’s will there be or Gabriel Medina’s? Could they clone a White Lightning? It’s early days but not impossible.
Our man on the ground tells Tracks the screening process for identifying talent is unique.
Kids are pulled from other sports based on their athleticism, balance, swimming skills and then ushered into a team where surfing ability ranges dramatically from full blown beginners to your average intermediate where they are expected to just surf and train.
“It’s pretty much an Aussie grom’s dream but they don’t really have the passion,” says our ear to ground. “They’re told to do it so it’s more like a job. There’s no school or anything, maybe the odd English lesson but that’s about it.”
But are they discovering the stoke or simply robotically going through the motions?
“Once they get into it they’re frothing! But still anytime you get told to do anything as a grom you get over it.”
Despite being such a young surf nation, the money pouring in from a determined government is certainly ensuring its athletes have the facilities and resources available to accelerate their development and produce a future world champion from the People’s Republic of China.
Word is that the national team will get to surf the Qingfen wave this summer.