Hainan’s Riyuewan boasts year-round waves suitable for all surfers
You’ve got two weeks to pack for Surfing Hainan Open, China’s biggest annual surf competition held on Hainan Island.
Known as “China’s Hawaii” (or “Russia’s Florida” depending on whom you ask), Hainan Island is probably China’s best-known tropical resort destination.
Golf, tennis, swimming and dining at hotel buffets appear to be the most popular tourist activities, but more and more visitors are also coming to ride waves.
Surfing Hainan Open’s venue Riyuewan (Sun and Moon Bay) is a 90-minute drive from the resort enclave of Sanya and is China’s top surfing destination.
Brendan Sheridan, owner of local surf shop Surfing Hainan and the organizer of the surfing competition, explains why surf riders should come hang ten on the southeast part of the island this winter.
1. Best winter getaway
Hainan is a popular winter retreat for those from colder climes, particularly mainland China and Russia.
Although in summer the south swells do provide ride-able waves, the water is a bit too calm for experienced surfers (though a great time for stand-up paddleboarding or surfing beginners).
The best time to surf Riyuewan is from October to March when the northeast swells deliver the best waves of the year.
The Surfing Hainan Open has been held in the autumn and winter for the past four years and the first Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) tour event in China was also held this past October — the Swatch Girls Pro China Women’s World Longboard Championship, won by Australian Chelsea Williams.
Free from the crowds, Riyuewan is an ideal beach to get your feet wet surfing.
2. Great spot to learn surfing
You don’t need to be a world champion like Chelsea Williams to enjoy Riyuewan’s surf break.
Waves do occasionally reach overhead but are usually comfortably waist-high.
And Riyuewan’s location away from the crowds at Dadonghai, another main beach resort in Hainan, means you don’t have to surf in constant fear of crashing into innocent bathers, as Russian transplant (and novice surfrider) Oxana Solovyeva notes.
3. Easy paddle and fun waves
Born in Taiwan and raised in Hawaii, Sam Lawn knows his way around the waves. He’s competed in the Surfing Hainan Open on several occasions.
Today, as a busy Beijing-based executive at a social media company, he doesn’t get to ride his board as often as he likes.
"I don’t get to surf as often as I’d like to, and when I do, I don’t want to spend all day paddling out,” says Lawn.
"Riyuewan offers an easy paddle that’s good for beginners, but waves that are fun for more experienced riders, too.”
4. Accommodation for all budgets
If you’ve got the desire (and the budget) to be pampered in the lap of luxury after a long day of chasing sets, Le Méridien Shimei Bay Beach Resort & Spa is one of the finest hotels on Hainan Island.
For more moderate budgets, the 21 Hotel offers clean and reasonable accommodation for surfers just 200 meters from Riyuewan — be sure to ask for the special rate for contestants and spectators of Surfing Hainan Open. (This year’s rate is yet to be announced, but it is usually much lower than the official rate.)
But for true beach bums, there’s only one option — camping on the beach.
Experienced surfriders will see better swells in Riyuewan from October to March.
5. Beautiful scenery
Of course we wouldn’t be talking about Riyuewan at all if it weren’t a beautiful vacation destination.
As Sheridan puts it: “Nature designed the perfect surf spot with Riyuewan — a tropical surf spot framed by a lush green headland and plenty of coconut trees, with year-round waves suitable for all surfers."
Beyond Sun and Moon Bay
Riyuewan, like much of Hainan, has undergone fairly rapid development in recent years, which included the controversial tearing down of Mama’s Restaurant, a casual open-air dining spot popular with surfers.
The beach’s evolution has its detractors.
"What was once a pristine surf spot offering a tropical island feeling, is now hundreds of square meters of asphalt parking lot, mixed with numerous multi-story cement buildings and apartment blocks,” laments Christian Ras Hafeez, CEO of Gravity Cartel.
"The true origins of this surf spot have been washed away by Chinese commercialization,” Hafeez adds.
In spite of potential shortcomings, with the best amenities for surfers and as the only Hainan beach to hold an international (or any) surf competition, Riyuewan is secure as the top destination for surfriders in China.
However, local resident Justin Tiller notes that much of Hainan’s east coast is full of great places to catch waves during the winter.
Surfing Hainan’s Sheridan agrees, but cautions, “surf breaks are a bit like fishing holes — nobody wants to reveal their favorite spots to the public.”
Surfing Hainan Open 2011, December 3-4, starts 8 a.m., Riyuewan Bay, on the main left-hand point break.
One-minute guide for touring Riyuewan
1.Luxury: Le Méridien Shimei Bay 石梅湾艾美度假酒店
About a 15-minute drive from Riyuewan, the five-star resort features private villas and escalators which take guests to and from the beach.
Add: Shimei Bay Resort, Wanning, Hainan  
Tel: +86 898 6252 8888
2.Economy: 21 Hotel Riyuewan 日月湾21世纪酒店
The three-star hotel features basic clean rooms and most convenient access to Riyuewan surf break as well as swimming pool for guests.
Add: Liji Town, Wanning, Hainan
Tel: +86 898 6258 5588
Shopping, surfing and touring:
Surfing Hainan
As the oldest surf shop in Sanya, Surfing Hainan offers gear sales and rentals as well as surf lessons and tours in Dadonghai and Riyuewan. The store is on a nameless side street, click here for a map.
Tel:  135 1980 0103 (English) 
       139 7619 0715 (Mandarin)
SOURCE: cnngo.com
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