hainan judging structure

The new permanent judging structure erected in Hainan. Photo: Clifton Evers


The Inertia

Surfing corporations and governing bodies see China as a huge new market and potential audience. Former Association of Surfing Professionals CEO Brodie Carr claimed that, “China is a powerful athletic country, a vast country and marketplace with a potential billion-strong audience for us.” Given declining surf product sales in the west, surfing organisation’s eyes have turned to the emerging middle-class and new rich in China. Surfing competitions have recently been held on Hainan Island in the South China Sea.

I went to Riyuewan Bay, Hainan Island – where the contests are being held – following the latest round of contests. As an expat surfer living in China, I have been to Hainan four times, three times prior to any competitions. My observations have led to have some concerns and suggestions I would like to express to the broader surfing community.

The Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) and International Surfing Association (ISA) have run the Swatch Women’s World Longboarding Championship and the Hainan Wanning Riyuewan Bay International Surfing Festival Presented by Quiksilver, which is made up of the International Surfing Association’s (ISA) China Cup and the Association of Surfing Professionals’ (ASP) World Qualifying Series Hainan Cup.

President of the ISA, Fernando Aquerre, has said “Without a doubt I can say that China has made a grand entrance into the surfing family.”

When professional surfer Cori Schumacher boycotted the 2011 Women’s longboard championship in China on human rights grounds, then ASP CEO Brodie Carr contacted her and suggested that Cori “proactively go there as an ambassador of a sport that possesses the unparalleled ability to empower people.”

So what is this “grand entrance” and “unparalleled ability to empower people” looking like on the ground at Riyuewan Bay?

One of the most significant effects of the contests I noticed has been the building of a permanent contest site. The contest site includes large sheds, media centre, competitor hang out area, and judging building. A large bitumen car park has also been built. The natural shoreline has become a built environment. These facilities are only used during the contests.

A local restaurant owned by ‘Mama’ has been torn down, and her land reclaimed by the government – a common practice in China when government officials can see money being made and want a grab at it themselves. Mama was compensated. However, she lost that income stream. Mama now runs a small drink stand in a new ‘surf club’ (owned by a businessman/government official) built on the site of her old place.

The warehouse-style surf club houses a large new restaurant and the ‘Surfing Hainan’ surf shop. One of the local surfers is now part owner of the restaurant. That could be seen as a benefit stemming from the development borne of the surfing competitions. However, the restaurant is doing poorly. Outside the contest periods there are not enough customers to support such a large restaurant facility. The poor going of the restaurant has caused friction between the co-owners, and the restaurant is looking like closing down after only one month of business.

This transformation of natural environment into a built environment and small businesses into large commercial enterprises is consistent with the growth of Hainan Island in general. A new resort and condominium complex seemingly opens each week. New highways cut across paddy fields. Private beaches have been established. Golf courses cover huge swaths of land. The goal in the government brochures is to make Hainan the “New Waikiki”.

Many surfers would not appreciate the model of development being pursued.

Further to changing the natural environment into a built environment, another environmental effect of the competitions has been trash from the competitions ending up on the headland. Piles of garbage have been dumped a few metres into the vegetation. Every company and organisation involved in the competitions had a responsibility to make sure this didn’t happen, and to check afterwards that it didn’t. This environmental vandalism is barely a blip on the radar of the environmental destruction taking place because of over-development on Hainan (and industrial waste and construction in China, more broadly). Yet, it doesn’t cry out “sustainable development” either.

Surfing companies, organisations and competitors had (and still have) the chance to show how the environment can be managed to benefit tourism, rather than be destroyed because of it, as tends to be the case in China. To date, they haven’t done enough.

1 2

  • Bert

    For the ISA, the ASP and brands alike, this is business. The brands are already in China, and we know how good it is for the chinese people to attract jobs in their country. They’re in competition with some eastern Europe countries or with others Asian countries for providing cheap and obedient workforce.
    Neither the chinese authorities nor the western brands are involved in such businesses for the good of Chinese.
    This is plain hypocrisy to talk about “bringing surfing to a billion people”, when you know (and the author knows better than I do, but I’ve been in China for work myself, except it was not in Hainan but usually Beijing, Tianjin or elsewhere) how common people are struggling for a simple living, let alone for their leisure! It’s a billion of unconcerned people.
    The total disregard for common people is a normal behaviour from chinese authorities, and a lot of them civil servants, for instance, will tell you how difficult it would be to “satisfy everybody”, and therefore it would be better to satisy some (always the same) and progressively increasing the level of life for the rest… We know where such a speed could lead, and usually leads, especially in China.

    But the greatest hypocrisy is to see how easy it is to “make business with communists”! Because China is still a communist country, or to say better, a dictatorship of the worst kind, where a co-opted minority is ruling, ruthlessly and for their own good, while promoting equality. But it didn’t prevent our own rulers, defenders of the free enterprise and democracy, to do business with those guys. The ruling party in France (Sarkozy’s UMP) signed an agreement with the communist party of China…We’re delivering diplomas by thousands, even selling them to chinese who sometimes don’t even speak english correctly, but go back to their country with masters degrees in engineering, without being able to translate the operating instructions of an electric screwdriver…And of course, those same guys that are explaining me how arabs or black people in France are a threat are making millions doing their business in China, at the expense of french people…

    Pro surfing in China benefited to the pro surfers (but I don’t expect those guys and girls to have a political conscience, or better, to be able to express it actively), to the brands and the the chinese authorities and the local corrupted people. That’s all. A billion of chinese didn’t care of the comp, and the average waves were not enough to justify the move from the ASP.
    A message to the ASP board: try India next time, at least they’re not communists…:)

  • Tim Hamby

    “Firsttime”, you’re going to have change your screen name! ; ) 

    It’s easy to understand articles like these. People write about subjects that are important to them. They write to educate, inform, share and inspire. That’s a good thing and there is always room for another. I’m sure Cori would be the first to agree. 

    I think Clifton’s article is well-written and informed, but agree with you that “pro surfing isn’t even a pimple on the arse of a Chinese baby when it comes to problems in China”. The problems with China are profound and institutional, and need to be confronted and managed by the highest level of leadership in America. They’ve been cleaning our clock for years in economic chess and someone needs to stand up to them and say “enough” of the currency manipulation and intellectual property theft. 

    Leveraging our economic advantages over them will always be the most certain way to influence/affect their human rights positions. That, and injecting western culture into their infrastructure to the maximum extent possible, so that their people will increasingly continue to demand more similar individual liberties. 

    In a global economy, we can not ignore China, we just need to manage them. Big media would have you believe that we are at their mercy. That is hardly the case. Our economy is over three times larger than theirs. Also, because most of the population in China is so poor, they are forced to rely upon exporting. That is key. That’s one area where we can affect them. SELLING IN to China is good. BUYING FROM China, not so much. That’s our crack habit. So, I am personally encouraged when I see that tide beginning to turn in any form. 

    Now, we need to stand up to them and call them out for cheating (currency) and theft.  What are we afraid of? As far as holding massive amounts of our debt, as most any banker will tell you these days, that can quickly move from being an economic advantage to an economic disadvantage in the extreme.

    Clifton, I think your sentiments are noble, however, I think the kind of real change you seek will only come with tactful executive leadership and policymaking, and not from the ASP. I enjoyed your thoughtful piece.

    • Al Baydough

      Americans happily gave China all the cards in the deck in order to boost short-term profits. We dealt them the best of all possible hands and now we’re calling them sharks? That’s one seriously bullshit, transparent bluff if ever I’ve seen one. 

       We’re talking about a country that hates its children so much that it kills its daughters, breeding millions of men with ZERO marriageable prospects. Genius. So now what? Chinese men are feeding a human trafficking market that steals girls from other countries so that they can have their meat puppets. They might be good at math but they sure are pretty f-ing stupid about damn near everything else – like building a massive dam on a fault line that overlooks one of the most populace regions in the nation. Or pumping so much toxic crap into their air and water because they have virtually no regulatory agencies to moderate the garbage. China is what you get when there are no unions or regulatory agencies to moderate responsible market behavior. China is EXACTLY what deregulation looks like. Yeah, let’s bring that kind of business model back to the USA.  People are morons. If there’s enough money in it they’ll happily drive off a cliff pushing their children before them. Shame I can’t watch this folly play itself out from the moon. When America is ready to lead by the example it pretends to promote I’m all in. But I have an exceedingly low tolerance for hypocrisy. If you’re gonna call me on my bullshit you damn well better be willing to be called out on yours. Christian nation my ass.

      • Tim Hamby

        Guessing it’s flat where you’re at today, Al…  Here, too.

        As “Firstime” wrote, you’re just telling us more of what we already know. Now, what would you have us do about it? The moon base won’t be ready anytime soon, unless you’re willing to cast a vote for Newt. So, we need to deal with the issues at hand and not stick our heads in the sand. 

        The US has been out-manuvered by China for years. Partly due to greed, partly to fear and risk aversion. What’s done is done. My comments are a call to stop with that posture and begin working in a smarter, more aggressive way that puts the US back in control of that relationship. Our values, while imperfect, are certainly head and shoulders above theirs.

        What Christianity has to do with things, I am unsure (?) At the core of all of society’s ills –here, China, Syria, on the moon and on your street– is greed. From child molesters, murderers and dictators, to dirty politicians, greedy investors and wife beaters, it’s all about selfishness (power, money, self-satisfaction) and too little selflessness. That’s not an American thing, or a China thing or a conservative / liberal thing. That’s a human thing. It’s also not, as many like to call it, a “disease”. Rather, it is a “condition”. And Christianity represents the antithesis of selfishness (one who gave everything for all). 

        We live in a messy world. Evil exists. Greed’s not going away. Everyone will continue to make mistakes. But we do live in it, so our best bet is to try and manage conditions as wisely as able. Not ranting. Not looking away. Not beating up on Christians, or anyone else. Just being smarter. There’s no perfect way to do it because we are imperfect. But I believe my suggestions represent what a real and effective path might look like.

        • Al Baydough

          Yup, feeling ornery. Haven’t surfed in ages. That response was intended for a more general audience. The Xtian footnote is in response to the religious fervor plaguing this nation as we see manifested in Santorum’s growing popularity and the fact that those playing that card are some of the biggest hypocrites going. 

           A real and effective path requires Americans to be less obsessed with taking the fast track to owning homes and making their first million and instead going the distance, pulling the hard yards required to develop skill, build companies based on quality product and sound, ethical practices, hiring people to help manifest that vision and paying them a wage that doesn’t perpetuate the elitist bullshit we’ve seen become so rampant in this nation, as well as taking a stewardship role over an opportunistic one in regards to how we do business utilizing resources and energy. We also need to reduce the trend of outsourcing to nations that exploit workers and instead broker relations with nations that incentivize them to improve conditions for their people so that they feel compelled to stay there instead of flee and come here in droves. 

           I brought this up before but it bears repeating: the nation’s interior is peopled with hundreds of thousands of citizens who are out of work and could, with the right folks taking the initiative, be put to work in various manufacturing sectors. People in architectural and building professions need jobs as well and it makes more sense to pool these various elements to create sustainable working communities that are far better than the oil and natural gas boom-to-bust towns, being currently promoted by the fossil fuel industries whose models are only short term fixes that will ultimately create more long term problems. Intentional communities based on manufacturing and commerce are much better alternatives. Setting these communities within relative proximity to rails will also be of long-term benefit. Obviously, the best place to launch these models will likely be the right-to-work states and the onus wil be on them to prove that corporations can prove an ability to function ethically independent of unions. This is just a sketch but you get the idea.

          • Tim Hamby

            I would just remind that hypocrisy is not exclusive to Christians, nor even politicians, although mainstream media (some of the biggest hypocrites) would have you believe that. 

            I like most, but not all of your vision. I believe in pursuing sustainable energy, but the U.S. is in ICU right now and workable clean energy still has a long way to go. Some significant investments have just hurt us even more. In the immediate interests of national security (the Middle East is about to get even more exciting); employment; and buying time to make sustainable energy work, I believe we need to push on with fossil fuel production. Maybe that is shortsighted and falling into the same old hole, it just seems (truly) unavoidable at this time.

            I like your ideas about manufacturing and insourcing, and certainly, anything connected to real estate/building needs a hand up. That industry alone has suffered like no other in this recession (depression) and meaningful recovery won’t happen without resolution there. As people get kicked out of their homes and lose credit, there will certainly be plenty of need for new multifamily rentals, so perhaps that’s the path. 

            With respect to manufacturing, yes bring it back home to whatever degree we can, even if robots do a lions share of the work. There are still plenty of associated jobs. And while corps might not be able to take advantage of $6 a day Chinese workers, I know for a fact there’s a lot of extremely talented people out there right now working for next to nothing. Perhaps, as you say, if we could de-unionize just a bit, find some healthy balance between unethical corporate behavior and unsustainable benefits and pensions, then maybe…

            I think what ultimately has to come to get us out our current situation is a combination of diminished entitlements; tax reform (“someone besides me, please”); massive changes to the average American’s lifestyle; and more help for those in the world who can’t now contribute to the changes necessary (so that one day they can). I do think that everyone should pay some tax, so that they can feel like they own part of our Democracy. But, as your own suggestions imply, our salvation depends upon taking the hurt, each and every one of us, while again learning to care about our neighbors and reaching out a hand to those in need.

          • Al Baydough

            The problem with continued dependence on fossil resources as a fuel/energy source is that when the stuff is burned off it is gone forever. Seeing that we use crude for the production of the majority of the hard goods on the market it makes no sense to keep burning it off. We should have been making a big push away from it as fule two decades ago when the ability to do so would have been less difficult in the transition. It’s too late for that now as our hard-headedness and procrastination has put us in an ever more precarious spot. The bottom line is that the nations that continue to depend on this increasingly obsolete form of energy and fuel will be the first to feel the pain. The time is not now, it was yesterday and more delays only mean more pain in the marketplace. When you consider all the various industries and the military that are wholly dependent on fossil fuel you begin to realize the range and scope of the issue. Consumers must start being weened off the stuff ASAP before the government steps in and starts rationing it for national security reasons.

             Even those who lobby for oil admit that we have, at best, about another hundred years of crude as a means. With all the nations coming increasingly online with the stuff it is literally national suicide to stay the current course as exponential rates of consumption will see exponential leaps in costs. Gas prices have tripled in less than a decade. At this rate they will triple in roughly half that time from now (give or take). The fact that we are having to go to increasingly hazardous places on the globe to get to the stuff should be a big red flag for everyone. Extraction will only get more costly and messy. That’s a fact. 

             The push to promote sustainable energy will create a lot of jobs. The push to fund expanded rails will also both create jobs as well as expand and improve commerce. Win/win. We can take the hit of the initial investment. People who point to bummers like Solyndra fail to realize they are citing an exception and not a rule. They also fail to realize that Big Oil and other related industries also receive subsidies (on top of the already nefarious tax cuts) that make what Solyndra got look like monopoly money (in both senses of the term). 

             As for everyone paying taxes, well, first that means everyone has to be paid a more than livable wage in order for it to be taxable to begin with. That ain’t gonna happen. Employers are gonna be a lot happier with the current arrangement – and so will everyone else. The minimum wage isn’t a livable wage in most states, let alone a taxable one. This means that those working at these substandard wages are already doing the nation a huge favor by saving everyone on production costs and just the basic cost of doing business. Try living on minimum wage on your own. It isn’t possible, I’ve tried.

          • Tim Hamby

            Well Al, as usual, you lay out a pretty compelling case for your position(s). I think one thing that you and I both definitely agree upon is that saving ourselves from the fallout of this massive de-leveraging is going to painful for most, no matter what path we head down. I don’t believe there’s going to be any escaping shared sacrifice. That may be a new concept for a lot of folks. Hopefully, we’ll all get used to it.

          • Al Baydough

            How ironic that the one resource that has made us so prosperous (and more homicidally destructive than we ever were before) is quite likely the same one that will completely crush us – at least if we stay the present course. It also baffles me that anyone thinks the oil tycoons and czars could give a rat’s ass about anything more than their own profit margins when it’s clear that they’ll throw everyone under the gas guzzling bus for continued financial gains – then merely hop to a mansion overseas when they’ve succeeded in collapsing the nation by keeping us addicted to their black crack.

             Our obsession with the myopic, self-interested interpretation of the American Dream has completely distorted our sense of priorities. But this should come as no surprise; when you sell a nation as the land of opportunity you are going to attract a lot of opportunists. The American Dream: “be careful what you ask for…”

             http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShTVpGuzk1M&feature=related 

          • Tim Hamby

            Well Al, as usual, you lay out a pretty compelling case for your position(s). I think one thing that you and I both definitely agree upon is that saving ourselves from the fallout of this massive de-leveraging is going to painful for most, no matter what path we head down. I don’t believe there’s going to be any escaping shared sacrifice. That may be a new concept for a lot of folks. Hopefully, we’ll all get used to it.

  • Al Baydough

    You aren’t offering a solution, just a rant. Are you starting a surf company that gives the consumer a better choice or just “sound and fury signifying of nothing?”

  • Tim Hamby

    Stiv,

    You clearly missed my point. My remarks have absolutely nothing to do with “US neo-colonialism”, real or imagined. I’m simply stating that American leaders need to stand up to the Chinese and call them out and hold them accountable for currency manipulation and intellectual property theft! Their exchange rate today is nearly 50% lower than it was in 1991 when it should be 300% higher! That’s a crime and an assault on American workers not one bit less egregious than the attack in Al’s Watchmen clip! Only difference– it’s REAL!!!  We need to stop pandering to them out of economic fear. We let them into the WTO. Now, we need American leaders who are willing to call out their criminal practices. How is that “neo-colonialism”?

    • Al Baydough

      Gotta start pulling our manufacturing out of China. That will force their hand. There are people here that need the work and are willing. I’d also prefer to see us set up shop, if/where necessary, in countries that need work but aren’t despotic and are willing to work more amicably with us.

      I realize it isn’t practical to expect an immediate return to restoring our GDP but China has our balls because we gave them to them in the first place. Not an easy grip to get out of. Perhaps something slippery to make a break is necessary? ;-)

      • Tim Hamby

        I think you’re right and that’s much closer to what I was advocating. Sell them whatever they want to buy from us, but cut back the sourcing or at the very least force them to quit playing us on all sides. I don’t think we can ignore them. I don’t think we should ignore them. I think we need to deal with them more forcefully and intelligently, and with less fear (since we don’t have much to lose anymore). And yes- it might actually help out a few folks at home AND provide us more leverage in the human rights arena! In the long run, for the US generally, and American-based transnational companies, continuing to work with China in the manner that we have for the past two decades is an increasingly negative spiral headed to a dead end.

  • Tim Hamby

    Jeff,

    You are spot on in all of your remarks. Atlanta is one great example of the phenomenon you point to. Many of those former Olympic venues had to be creatively used/redeveloped following the Games there and some may still sit empty! I know that there are significant numbers of Chinese youth who love action sports and western culture for all the things they represent. I believe the Chinese government views these same things from a much more opportunistic perspective (economic, as well as to provide their athletes with the means to raise their skill levels to be better able to compete with western athletes in international competitions like the Olympics). Surfing may be at the far outer edges in this respect. But hey, I agree- providing anyone over there with the opportunity to experience surfing, professional or otherwise, will only ever be a good thing.

  • Al Baydough

    I don’t think Tim was advocating for it as much as dissecting it and trying to think in practical terms as it relates to the professional world he lives in; how to maneuver through the mine field that we’ve laid before us. I’m a bit more blunt. Iraq is nothing. Wait another five to ten and see how things play out for us in Uzbekistan. I’m more hopeful with Iran for the fact that the majority of the younger generations are ready for a real change and the elder religious loons are running out of years. 

     But really, how are we supposed to convince our children we love them if continue to place more value on oil and cheap labor than we do their lives and futures? 

     And, yeah, I don’t agree with everything that comes out of my head, either, which is why I come to forums like this to get the thoughts out and field responses. I have to speak with conviction to make a point worth sticking but I’m not one for dogma. If someone can offer a better, stronger argument I’m always game to amend my position in light of new info and a different perspective. None of the changes we would like to see will happen quickly and it will take a tremendous amount of public support to be truly efficacious. Americans have become largely too comfortable and that’s a hard nipple to ween off of. Question is how bad we’re willing to let things get before we get over our hyper-individualism and work together to make the necessary changes – or we could just continue to suck the teet dry until the only thing left to do is gnaw at empty breasts before turning on one another; there are obviously plenty of people who seem to be fine with pushing it to that extreme. Apathy is one hell of a monster.

    • Tim Hamby

      Right again, Al. I’m not here for dogma, either. There are people here who stand left, right and center-right ( ; ) ) and I appreciate hearing and learning from all of them. Obviously, if we all fell right in line with one another, then we wouldn’t gleen much new insight, benefit or value from one another. I also appreciate that the people I’m talking to can and do enjoy moving from micro- or macro- politics/economics to Andy Irons, surf-journalism, what’s happening at Snapper, what constitutes good surfing style, etc. Those are all reasons why this community is is so uniquely interesting to me. I myself do not take anything personally and respect everyone’s opinion.

      P.S. In regards to the discussion, here’s a little piece that I saw today that should be REALLY interesting. Quite relevant to the entire conversation: http://bit.ly/zxpcYF

  • Bert

     Back in the day, there were a lot of things we shouldn’t do today, because of civilization, progress, social evolving, education…I would be able to find plenty of bad examples of “back in the day” behaviours.

    To say child labor is necessary to the industrial progress of China is terrible. Slavery would be better! How far can you go?

    A better scheme for the distribution of wealth, democracy, a real care for people and environment would also benefit China. 

    A country ran by a dictator, full of slaves working for nothing and dying before 20 years old could perform a 20% growth every year, and of course increase trade with such a country could benefit others…How far can you go?

    There is no surf mentality. It means nothing, it’s just another PR stuff, evolving every ten years with the image brands want to send to their customers. You can’t export a sport, evolving of a new sport in a country take years, it’s a cultural issue.

    Hainan is the place where very rich chinese people are going every year, as well as a small number of tourists (compare to the number of chinese). Chinese authorities want to make Hainan (already a special economic province) a touristic destination, apart from the rest of China, as usual.

    I can compare it to surfing in South Africa in the eighties. It was really easy, if you could cope with the segregation, the signs against blacks, the disgusting mentality of a huge number of white people, the apartheid…

  • Bert

     ”The most certain way to influence/affect China’s human rights positions
    is to expose the Chinese people to western culture to the maximum extent
    possible.”

    I don’t think so. First because it would mean that the “western culture” (what’s that? US culture?) should be adopted everywhere in the world, and I can’t see why.
    Second because the chinese are already exposed to “western culture” and especially the rulers. They have already swallow our western of making money and politics. There is no difference between a greedy businessman in China and another one in Europe or the US. Ethics and social issues are present in chinese culture as much as in western culture, it’s a question of people, not a question of culture.

  • Al Baydough

    I could try tact but instead I’ll say what I’d say to anyone who tells me to shut up: FU, Willy.

  • Al Baydough

    There are numerous articles on this site that talk about many other things. Would you complain that your unit was swollen and sore after you willingly stuffed it in a bee hive?

     Some surfers are more complex and concerned than others about issues that, though they may not appear to be on the surface, are important to be discussing because they do in fact affect us all. Apathy is not a solution to anything.

     And what makes you so sure that there is room for more of the likes of you and not for those like Cori? Personally, I’d prefer a world with more people like Cori who have the courage to tackle difficult and troubling subjects – it certainly takes more character, grit, and resolve.

  • Al Baydough

    Not so sure. Once the power elite get hep to the high of surfing I’m willing to bet they’ll privatize the experience and close spots to all but those who they deem fit ($$$) to have access to them. China doesn’t have many quality breaks or consistent swell and it already has a ready-made mega crowd in the waiting. That’s bad math. 

  • Wildrnes

    A little rough in the delivery but a good vital message. I want a steady paycheck if I am going to advertise for these corpos. If Dane is making a Million off of Vans, then we should receive a steady commission. If Channel Islands is giving their riders free boards, then steady customers and sticker fanatics should get a free board or 2 during their lifetime.
    Oh, they should cut me a check for using their names in this blog message. Editor, could you translate this into Mandarin or Cantonese for your the Chinese readers. Thank you!

  • Bert

    I reacted to this:
     ”The most certain way to influence/affect China’s human rights positions
    is to expose the Chinese people to western culture to the maximum extent
    possible.”

    I can’t see any “western culture” with enough legitimacy to influence or affect China’s human rights positions, because as I said, it’s not a question of culture. The abuses aren’t a cultural issue but a political one.

    You cited different things (freedom, individualism, a sense of adventure and daring, free-spirit…) you called values, and said were inherent to surfing. That could be discussed, but I’m off topic. You then opposed them to “chinese communists core beliefs”, and I had to disagree once again. Chinese communists core beliefs? You won’t see that! You’ll see authoritarism, police brutality, censorship, but communism no more!
    As for the individualism, a lot of chinese would disagree with you, indivualism is the order of the day in China, and they regret it. I wouldn’t consider individualism a value myself, but that’s another topic.

    You won’t exposed the average Chinese to surfing with a competition in Hainan. The aim is for western surfer to know about the place, and to make it look like a holiday destination for everybody (with enough money). In the case, nobody cared about bringing surfing to Chinese, not even as a collateral effect!

    Once again, it’s not a cultural issue. People don’t need to know about freedom. They’re not culturally oppressed. The oppressive regime is using surfing in order to promote its own business. Helping him doing so is not wise, if we’re concerned by the Chinese themselves. It’s a political issue. Should we discuss it here? I don’t think so.

  • Bert

    I reacted to this:
     ”The most certain way to influence/affect China’s human rights positions
    is to expose the Chinese people to western culture to the maximum extent
    possible.”

    I can’t see any “western culture” with enough legitimacy to influence or affect China’s human rights positions, because as I said, it’s not a question of culture. The abuses aren’t a cultural issue but a political one.

    You cited different things (freedom, individualism, a sense of adventure and daring, free-spirit…) you called values, and said were inherent to surfing. That could be discussed, but I’m off topic. You then opposed them to “chinese communists core beliefs”, and I had to disagree once again. Chinese communists core beliefs? You won’t see that! You’ll see authoritarism, police brutality, censorship, but communism no more!
    As for the individualism, a lot of chinese would disagree with you, indivualism is the order of the day in China, and they regret it. I wouldn’t consider individualism a value myself, but that’s another topic.

    You won’t exposed the average Chinese to surfing with a competition in Hainan. The aim is for western surfer to know about the place, and to make it look like a holiday destination for everybody (with enough money). In the case, nobody cared about bringing surfing to Chinese, not even as a collateral effect!

    Once again, it’s not a cultural issue. People don’t need to know about freedom. They’re not culturally oppressed. The oppressive regime is using surfing in order to promote its own business. Helping him doing so is not wise, if we’re concerned by the Chinese themselves. It’s a political issue. Should we discuss it here? I don’t think so.

  • Wildrnes

    “I have deep political and personal reservations with being a part of any sort of benefit to a country that actively engages in human rights violations, specifically those in violation of women. The ASP’s reconnoissance (sic) of possible sites in China for events last year and its first ASP event in China followed an important US congressional hearing on China’s “One Child Policy”, a policy sanctioned by the Chinese government that is implicated in gendercide, sexual slavery, forced sterilization and forced abortions. (http://www.womensrightswithoutfrontiers.org/index.php?nav=congressional)

  • Al Baydough

    Methodology? I’m willing to bet that if they had more access/exposure to participation in various action sports it would change the level of interest. Imagine if economies were centered primarily around physical activities than mere consumption. 

  • Tim Hamby

    Clif, I understand. Action Sports are definitely still in an emerging / pioneering phase in China. When I say “significant” numbers, I am not suggesting relative to the potential market size, only that the sub-culture(s) already exists there (est. 40,000-50,000 active skaters in 2009). My information came from first-hand accounts from the family owners of Camp Woodward, who were courted by the Chinese to set up operations over there. The family member I spoke to said on his visits that he was amazed at how many youth there were that were both participating in the sports and wearing progressive “western-style” apparel (though primarily Chinese brands). As I mentioned, he said he felt that the government was most interested in promoting action sports on two fronts: training for better performance by their athletes in international competitions; and for their economy- more markets to further develop themselves. Apparently, someone over there believes its going to develop successfully. However, I understand that it remains to be seen how things play out, and to see if their culture where “work” is emphasized over “play” and “free-spirits” eyed suspiciously, chooses to embrace the lifestyle in a meaningful way. I personally think it’s all pretty hard to resist! : )

    http://www.shelbystanger.com/clips/5-part-series-on-china-action-sports-scene/
    http://methodcn.com/tag/china-action-sports/
    http://business.transworld.net/70009/news/action-sports-organization-s3-forms-in-china/

    • Clif

      Those figures you refer to and the rhetoric you refer to are hyper-inflated and driven by commercial interest. They are there to generate interest for investors.

      The actual figures of participation are far from that. 40-50,000 skaters as of 2009. They are tripping. I wouldn’t be ready to put actual figures forward but they would be a  fraction of that, in a country of over a billion. And we are referring here to skating, of which I participate day in and day out in Shanghai. If I see someone else street skating it is rare, unless I go to certain locales where a small crew regularly congregate. The massive skateparks built are empty – ghost towns. They are built in hope.

      The interest in building infrastructure is there, as this means money to be made of construction. But that is the graft. The money in China is in real estate and construction.

      Also, how certain interested parties get their figures is highly dubious, especially when you consider how they define skating participation, identity, etc. I know crew in IPSOS and they haven’t a clue (quantitative, don’t get me started on qualitative, particularly the domestic researchers carrying out such research). 

      Add to this that we are focusing on skating and the place is built to skate, granite steps, concrete everywhere.

      Surfing is miniscule, the only place with a real domestic surfing presence is in Hainan and domestic surfers number about twenty there, not including expats etc. Elsewhere there are a few surfers but are again miniscule in number.  

      As for snowboarding, so far out of reach and interest for most Chinese young people. Again, numbers are tiny. And then there is the cultural gap.

      Yougn Chinese don’t do “youth culture” and action sports like we know it on any real scale, they don’t have the appeal of basketball, badminton and ping pong.

      The cultural factors in regards to young people and what is expected of them and how this militates against participation cannot be understated. Further, amateur sport is practiced very differently here and for very different purposes. 

      Even subcultural music forms struggle here, and it is way more accessible.

      Skating is the most accessible action sport, and it will be the one to grow. But it is very different from surfing and snowboarding in terms of accessibility.  People do see advertisements about these action but by and large they remain on the most part an exotic curiosity.  

      Look, action sports will grow (particularly skating) but not as we know it or business people from the West expect.

      Tell your friends to be careful. Being invited in to build a skate park can be about someone trying to make money off some construction and leaving the subsequent product to simple whither and crumble away. You really have to know your stuff here. A few action sport people here do know their stuff and are incredibly careful doing business in China, and with their expectations. 

      Look, I am not saying action sports won’t grow because of course they will. But the saviour of the industry as we know it ? I have serious reservations. I think you will see an entirely new landscape and milieu emerge – driven by domestic business people and brands.

      ps. Al, I am using a mixed method approach – ethnographic, focus groups, interviews, as well as some Nvivo software and quant work to get some broad stroke numbers. Thsi research is still underway though. A long way to go yet.

      • Clif

        By the way, interesting feedback. Thanks to both of you.

        • Tim Hamby

          Ditto that, Clif. It’s a fascinating subject and obviously, an important one for many. It will be interesting to see how it plays out in the years ahead. So many different forces at work.  I guess the market potential is simply too big for many abroad to ignore / not speculate on. Absent wavepools or Olympic inclusion, surfing seems like a long shot, but it’s hard for me to imagine skating whiffing. Then again, many over there might would well wonder why I don’t have a badminton set! At the end of the day, I think that’s quite alright. 

      • Al Baydough

        My impression of the cultural hurdles that prevent an explosion of interest/participation in board sports in China is that Chinese families are still very old world in that they pressure their children to pursue traditionally elitist professions (medicine, law, engineering, science-based professions, etc.). Most Chinese families I have known in my life (and it’s no small number) have a very negative view of what they perceive to be frivolous business (let alone leisurely) pursuits – you know, fun stuff, the things that make life enjoyable instead of torturously mundane. Chinese culture strikes me as being supremely burdened by intense insecurities and a pretty bleak outlook in general. This kind of negativity is one hell of an obstacle to confront and really drains the energy out of anyone who tries to grapple with it. Shame that they don’t realize the strongest economies are the most diversified ones. Ultimately, I feel that this is precisely what must be tackled: we have to make a huge effort to get countries like China to realize that the healthiest, happiest, most productive societies and economies are those that know how to broaden the scope of business in order to generate more inclusivity. This is gonna be a helluva task as we’re battling centuries of repressive institutionalized thinking. Buckle up.

      • Igraba

        Clif, you are 100% correct! After 15 yrs in China I have come to realize that China is a very different cup of tea. They don’t play by the same rules. Anybody who hasn’t lived there, who doesn’t speak the language and who doesn’t understand the culture has no business posting here. Sorry, it’s just a very different world. Fact.

        • Al Baydough

          I haven’t been there but my best friend is half-Chinese, goes back there regularly; I grew up surrounded by Chinese immigrants and had many Chinese friends growing up. I studied the culture under a professor from China. I’m not getting the whole picture, obviously, but I do have a good deal more insight into the Chinese mind than the overwhelming majority of most Americans. Fact.

            And I doubt that Sun Tzu would agree with your dismissive posture. 

          • Tim Hamby

            For the group: Nice vid on skating in China http://vimeo.com/17700447 Filmmaker Charles Lanceplaine also gave a nice interview on http://www.diversiontv.com/#

  • http://petebowes.com/ Peterbowes111

    Well, back when I was a younger man surfers had hardly anything to say – that was one of the benefits of a lost education and a poor employment record. Clif, you have to stop upping the literate ante.
    Hope you are well btw / pete

    • Clif

      Right you are, pete. Following this latest installment I decided I am going to just wander away … as you once told me and I have never forgotten, “quietly walk away”. This whole surfing industry and surf culture speculation only muddies the waters. There is a place near me which is a joy. Nothing but the act of sliding on a wave. The circus won’t be finding its way there until I am nothing but dirt … maybe one day I’ll send ya directions.   

    • Clif

      Right you are, pete. Following this latest installment I decided I am going to just wander away … as you once told me and I have never forgotten, “quietly walk away”. This whole surfing industry and surf culture speculation only muddies the waters. There is a place near me which is a joy. Nothing but the act of sliding on a wave. The circus won’t be finding its way there until I am nothing but dirt … maybe one day I’ll send ya directions.   

      • http://petebowes.com/ Peterbowes111

        the ‘baa is down mate -domain needs rego – I’ll split it with ya

  • Eurotrash

    You do not want a billion Chinese learning to surf. Trust me, I live there.