Above: Final day highlights from the ASP World Tour event the Hainan Classic.
After the successful completion of the ISA China Cup and Hainan Classic which were held on Hainan Island, China, we caught up with the ISA's Fernando Aguerre to get some insight into the groundbreaking events…
TransWorld SURF: Did you ever expect the surf to be as good as it was?
Fernando Aguerre: We studied the region very carefully; its waves and other conditions, so we knew we were going to have some decent surf. Due to my back surgery in late October of 2011, I wasn't able to visit China before the event, but I sent ISA Director General Bob Mignogna to inspect the region and it looked like a great area for a surfing contest. At the end of the day, the waves were great during the whole event; in the chest-high to overhead range. A freesurfing area 100-yards from the event site came alive during the better days, too. The wave was a super hollow left, with what contestants from Australia described as "incredible" and compared it to Kirra but a left with two or three tube rides per ride. So it was certainly better than we'd hoped for.
How were the Chinese fans?
They were all very interested, obviously not very knowledgeable about the scoring details, but enthusiastic and certainly friendly to all of us. The local media was very much present all day, everyday, with tremendous coverage, including five daily highlights on the national channel CCTV, which reaches around 800-million Chinese viewers. We might have set a world record in the history of television coverage for a surfing contest. This would be another record for the event, including the first time that Chinese surfers compete in an ASP event.
What was the feedback from the surfers who participated in the event?
The feedback was one of total support and excitement. Most of them had never heard about waves in China. So it was a pleasant shocker. The event was in reality two contests in one—the ISA China Cup, with the top 8 surfing nations fielding 4 men, 2 women, national surfing teams, competing for gold medals, followed by the Hainan Classic, a 4-star ASP event, with $95,000 in prize money and points for the ASP World Tour. In this event, surfers from 19 countries participated. Both events were organized by the ISA. By the way, by now it's very clear, that it was a very positive decision to include for the first time in history and ISA and ASP events back-to-back. It was a win/win situation for teams and surfers. Most of the national team competitors also competed in the ASP event, including, for what I believe was a very rare thing: Several female surfers competed in the ASP mens event. The overwhelming feedback from the surfers was very supportive of the format, and stoked to come back next year.
Do you expect the event to return next year?
Yes. This was a great event, with a great format, and an impeccable organization. The ISA has found a great Chinese partner to execute what could be called a tier one event. The opening ceremony was the best ever in the history of the ISA events—and most likely in the history of surfing. It was a grand event, including fireworks, hundreds of dancers, and a sit down dinner for a few hundred people served on the beach of a 6-star hotel, the Le Meridien.
What can you tell us about the Chinese surfer, "Jack" Yumiao and the Mongolian guy Zhuang Tie?
They were full of the surfing spirit and very proud to represent their country as they were included in the opening ceremony and "Sands of the World Ceremony," carrying the China flag, along with the 8 national teams, and even pouring local sand from Ryue Bay into the "Sands of the World" container.
What does the successful execution of the Hainan Wanning Riyue Bay International Surfing Festival mean to the future of surfing in China?
I believe this was a foundational moment in the history of surfing in China. Although there have been prior surfing events, including an ASP Women's longboard event, the massive local media coverage, and the strong branding of the event in China and around the world, has served to announce the existence of surfing for the Chinese people. The locals are intrigued by our sport, our relation with the ocean, and as even the local officials mentioned, by surfer's relations with the ocean and ocean protection. I believe, just like it has been in the past in other nations around the world, surfing will find a place in Chinese hearts. These is like Duke Kahanamoku's visit to Australia in 1915, a moment that will be remembered for years to come.
My vision and number one goal as ISA President is to take the happiness of surfing around the world, to small and big nations, in all continents. Some other countries in Asia have enjoyed surfing for decades, and are surf stoked, such as Indonesia and Japan, now is the time for China to go surfing.
The joy of surfing is always better when shared. There are millions of people that have just seen surfing for the first time in their lives. We all remember the first time we went surfing…now it's their turn to enjoy that very same feeling.