Five years ago surf shop staffer Li Jing, 31, didn’t have to fight for the best wave-catching spots in Riyue Bay, on the southeast coast of south China’s Hainan Island. Surfing was a niche pastime in the country, centred on a community of laid-back twenty-somethings splitting time between the water and Hainan’s shack bars.
“There might have been five of us in the sea each day,” said Li, lounging in a tie-die outfit outside Jalenboo Surf Club. “Then things changed.”
When surfing was introduced in China around ten years ago surfers were largely viewed as slackers by authorities, who banned them from many beaches citing safety issues. That attitude remained even past 2011, when Hainan hosted the…
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