Surfer, 33, who represented nation at ISA World Longboard Championship last year, has moved to the resort island permanently to pursue her passion for the sport. The province is now home to China’s national surfing team and academy.
China’s resort island province of Hainan may not be the most obvious choice for surfing enthusiasts, but professional surfers clearly knew that the wave was coming.
Among them was Monica Guo, one of China’s first – and now most popular – international surfers.
Ten years ago, Guo packed her bags in Yangshuo, in a mountainous area of the country, and headed to Hong Kong before she settled in the southernmost point of Hainan to pursue the sport full-time.
"The waters in Houhai Bay are shallow and the waves range from small and gentle to big and powerful … There are also no sharks or jellyfish [in the waters] to worry about."
Her inspiration was the 2002 Hollywood movie, Blue Crush, starring Kate Bosworth and Michelle Rodriguez, which tells the story of three young women who dream of being professional surfers.
Today, Guo, 33, is competing on the world stage, having represented her country at last year’s ISA World Longboard Championship.
Guo, who refers to Hainan as the “Chinese Hawaii”, says the province, which offers more than 60 world-class beaches and has a burgeoning surf scene, can cater to surfers of all abilities.
The island’s Houhai Bay, for example, which she now calls home, is great for surfers who are beginners.
“The water is shallow and the waves range from small and gentle to big and powerful,” Guo says.
“The bank is not rocky – just sandy, so it’s hard to hurt yourself. There are also no sharks or jellyfish [in the waters] to worry about.”
"Surfing opens your mind [to] how big the ocean is and makes you realize that you’re really, really tiny."
Hainan’s Riyue Bay, on the other hand, is challenging enough to be perfect for hosting competitions and has become the island’s official surfing venue for major contests.
It is also home to China’s national surfing team and academy, which is recruiting and training a new generation of surfers – a timely move now that surfing has been officially recognized as an Olympic medal sport at the 2020 Tokyo Games.
Interest in the sport is certainly growing in China.
Guo believes Hainan will be a prime destination for those people who want to learn to surf or even become pros.
“Now we have a lot of [official] support and more surfing clubs [are being set up] for training,” Guo says. “There’s a really bright future [for the sport] in Hainan.”
Michael Weaver, the Florida-born surf coach of China’s National Surf Team, says: “All the national [surf] teams are here training.”
Guo says the weather in Hainan is the best in the country, which makes it perfect for visitors.
“Hainan is also family friendly and great for shopping and eating,” she says “And if you’re bored of the beach, there are always the mountains.”
Yet surfing will always be Guo’s favorite pastime and she is spreading that passion by starting surfing camps for girls.
“Surfing opens your mind [to] how big the ocean is [and makes you realize] that you’re really, really tiny,” she says, adding that learning the sport can be humbling. “The waves will challenge you.”
She adds: “[Initially] nobody knew there were Chinese surfer girls, but we [keep] showing up and having fun – that’s really important. I think Hainan is going to be big for surfing.”