China is not just factories, polluted cities, traffic jams, and the like. You can also find palm trees, warm water (22C in January) and infinite sequences of point breaks. Hainan is the epicenter of Chinese surfing.
From November to April, the northeastern exposed spots around Wanning are surfable daily. In summertime, the south-exposed shores around Sanya make the most out of the frequent southerly swells. Typhoons reign from May to October and bring with them really nice conditions with waves than can reach 8-10 feet and occasionally more. Summer or winter, there’s always a wave breaking somewhere along it’s 1800km coastline.
It’s time to discover a previously unreachable surf destination in China. Since 2011, Riyue Bay was selected by the ASP as the contest field for the world women’s and men’s longboarding final and by the ISA for the ISA China Cup. In these past few years, we all have read news and seen pictures about surfing in Riyue Bay, but there is a place that no one told you before. There is a little village in a strategic position. Chinese people don’t even really know where it is. It has few names, but it’s called Houhai.
Some useful information
Hainan has two airports. The closest one to Houhai is Sanya Phoenix International Airport. You can reach Sanya from Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hong Kong and some other international cities. Flights from Moscow bring many Russian tourists to escape their freezing winters and to experience tropical beaches and life.
The airport is just 40 km away. You can catch the bus that brings you directly to the village in about 40 minutes or take a taxi for about 100 rmb and 200 rmb at night.
In this southern village of China, there are only about 1500 people and the bay is 2 km long. Quite intimate. Sandy beaches and clean warm water are a given. There are also some famous diving spots to visit if you fancy the underwater world. The most famous of the area is Wuzhizhou Island, but it’s now a bit commercial. Houhai has seen plenty of development. In fact, many surf houses, surf clubs, diving centers and restaurants have opened in the last two years. China Surf Report, a daily surf publication, is also based there.
The village is located exactly in the middle of a promontory. You can enjoy the waves and the ocean on both sides. There is also a nice kitesurfing center in the Haitang Bay side. Its English name is “Perfect Ocean.”
This is the best place if you want to escape from polluted and overcrowded beaches in the area and if you want to live the simple life – drinking coconut water, eating fresh fish after a surf and just relax.
If you plan to come, if possible, don’t do it during the Chinese New Year or you will find super-crowded beaches and the prices will be really expensive. The roads, supermarket, beaches and airports will be bursting at the seams with tourists.
What about the waves?
Here in Houhai, there are several peaks with sandy bottoms. They are very consistent and powerful but tend to close out over 1.5 to 2 meters in height. There’s a fun left point (mainly for longboards) that works on the left side of the bay during bigger days. It’s a nice place to surf during typhoons when the other places are unsurfable. Houhai is best surfed on NE and E swells but features strong side rips.
This place is well-known by surfers such as Wingnut, Sam Bleakley, Kassia Meador and many others who come every year. It’s also an excellent place to reach other spots nearby. All the hostels and local surfers know how to reach the surrounding spots, so be friendly and you will have a lot of fun with the locals who may share their knowledge of the nearby secret spots. Perfect waves, clear water and no one out.
Riyue Bay is less than one hour by car, but on the road, you can discover many other “minor” spots.
What to do in Houhai?
Houhai is a simple village. You can relax in one of the pubs on the beach, have a drink, listen to the local music or have a jam session at JahBar – a place where plenty of musicians, especially Dave Rastovich, come from mainland China to have a break and an exhibition in a tropical atmosphere. It’s your typical, small, surf town with a burgeoning surf culture and not much else going on. If you come with surf on your mind, you will enjoy yourself.
Communication is not a problem here because the personnel in hostels and hotels typically speak sufficient English and the people are cordial and really easy going. Of course, if you listen closely, the locals typically speak Cantonese or Mandarin. But with some fun, you will be able to easily communicate.
In case of emergency, the best hospital on the island is located just 1 km from the village.
Where will you go this year to surf?