In anticipation of the first ever ISA and ASP World Tour surf contests in China, we caught up with ISA President Fernando Aguerre to see how it all came about and what we can expect as Chris Ward and crew journey to Hainan Island in the South China Sea...--Justin Coté
TransWorld SURF: First off, why hold an event in China?
ISA President Fernando Aguerre: "A better surfing future" is our mission and by developing the sport in the most populated country in the world we're doing exactly that. The event is going to be broadcasted for all China via CCTV, the leading channel in the country, meaning that 1.3 billion people will see surfing, a lot of them for the first time. There will be a before and after in surfing with this event.
China has everything to become a powerhouse nation in surfing. We know how good they are at some sports; we may be seeing a Chinese ISA and ASP World Tour warrior in the years to come.
What are the waves and conditions like on Hainan Island? Looking at the island on a map it seems there isn't a lot of fetch for swells to gather steam.
The wave where the event is going to take place is left-hand point-break that can reach 150 meters on a good day with a barreling first section. We're going on the best time of the year to surf the place, based on a comprehensive study that the late Sean Collins did for us in 2010.
He wrote "Hainan Island in China produces consistent fun surf during the winter, and especially during the month of January according to our research of swell patterns over the last 15 years. I am very impressed with the local setup of various good quality surf breaks around the Riyue Bay area that enjoy prevailing offshore winds and clean conditions during the best swells." There are waves all year long.
So there's a team event with countries from across the globe as well as a traditional WQS 4-Star event?
Yes, this is truly a historic occasion. We created the festival and we wanted to have a team event in the traditional ISA format, with the top 8 surfing nations in the world based on the 2010 ISA World Surfing Games ranking, but also an ASP 4-Star. Everything's set for a historic competition. It is historic because the ISA and the ASP are working together for this, sharing efforts to have the best possible festival.
If the event proves to be successful this year, can we expect a bigger version, perhaps a 6-star Prime, in 2013?
We like to walk before we run, to paddle before we take off. The plan is to have this as an annual event.
Are there many Chinese surfers?
Not too many, probably not over 200. There are surf shops in Hainan, there are contests, and there are a few expats living there... There's a lot of ground to be covered, there's a lot to do and everything's set to start making things happen.
How do you say "surfing" in Chinese?
No idea. But for sure I will find out before the contest starts...
What was it like dealing with the Chinese government and or promoters while organizing the surf festival?
It was different, yet they have all proven to be very professional and committed to succeed. It's a different culture, one that we intend to learn, respect and deal with in a professional way as well.
What teams are looking the strongest in your opinion?
All the teams are strong. We're talking about the top 8 of the ISA World Surfing Games ranking. While Australia has been leading the ISA team competitions for several years, some other nations have proven that the Aussies can be beaten in the last couple years.
Can we mount a GoPro camera to Chris Ward's head just to see what kind of shenanigans he gets up to?
That would be an Oscar-winning documentary.
Who are some of the big name surfers we can expect to see?
Wardo is one for sure, Cory Lopez, Sofia Mulanovich, Gabriel Villarán, Dion Atkinson, Nic Muscroft, Jessi Miley Dyer and defending ISA Men's World Champion, Santiago Muñiz.
Cynics would say this is just a ploy for the surf industry to sell trunks and tees to the billion+ people in China. What's your answer to that?
Cynics can think whatever they want. As for the ISA, our intention is simple: We are here to take surfing to new nations around the world, and bring the surfing dream and culture to them. Since the Duke went to Australia in 1915, the promotion of surfing has helped the business sides of the sport. There is nothing wrong with making a decent leaving selling trunks, tennis rackets, or snowboards. The Chinese youth has a keen interest in action sports. The ISA is an organization dedicated to promoting the positive aspects and influence of surfing. Bringing it to 1.3 million that barely know surfing is part of our mission.
Surfing is good for the world.
Are the ISA China Cup and Hainan Classic going to further the "Get Surfing In The Olympics" cause you've been fighting for all these years or is that a whole 'nother can of worms?
Saying that would be a long shot, as surfing is just starting in China. However the Chinese sport leaders are important stakeholders in the Olympic Movement. Meeting new friends that could support our dream of Olympic surfing is always a step in the right direction.
I've spent one and a half year putting together all the pieces of this important puzzle. Government at different levels, are key players in any China hosted sport event. We are learning, and I personally believe that this event will be remembered forever as what jump-started surfing in China.
Dreaming, planning and executing on matters like this one, is part of my role as president of the ISA. It's one that brings together my love for the sport, my entrepreneurial spirit, and my hope of taking surfing around the world, especially to nations that don't currently surf. All my work is pro-bono, and as I guess you can call me the "volunteer in chief", for what I've been doing at the ISA since I was first elected in 1994. I'm proud of this event, and stoked on having the support of the Chinese government and people, and Quiksilver as presenting sponsor.