SURFING is probably the last thing that comes to mind when you think of Shenzhen. There’s a good reason for that: Chinese people have yet to take up this addictive and globally popular sport. Yet Shenzhen, boasting some of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in the country — according to National Geographic China — offers some prime surfing opportunities. And if you think I’m talking about Dameisha or Xiaomeisha, think again.
First, let’s set things straight: Surfing in Shenzhen is not like surfing in Hawaii or Indonesia. But whereas the waters at those world-famous destinations are almost always crowded, here you can have the waves all to yourself. And while the waves on the North Shore and Bali can quickly send you on a trip to the emergency room, Shenzhen’s waves are much more tame and friendly in comparison.
So, where can you surf in Shenzhen? None other than the city’s most beautiful beach: Xichong. Situated about an hour from Dameisha at the tip of the Dapeng Peninsula, Xichong is a long arcing stretch of sand and clean water cradled by mountains on all sides. It’s underdeveloped, save for a few restaurant and bungalow operations nestled quaintly in the trees on the dunes. Favorable water currents and its location on the opposite side of the Pearl River, just outside the shipping lanes, make it home to the most pristine water — often emerald green — you’ll find in Shenzhen. And the shoreline is kept clean thanks to the local Hakka women who regularly comb the beach.
However, it has to be said Xichong is not the most consistent or convenient place in the world to surf. Good waves depend largely on storm systems and typhoons that manage their way into the South China Sea. For this reason, the ideal surfing season is during autumn and winter, as spring and summer see virtually no waves at all, save for a rogue storms. However, the water temperature is tolerable until December and thereafter it’s nothing a wetsuit can’t handle. Good waves strike once a week on average.
One of the best things about surfing in Xichong is variety. Along the 4km stretch of sand, there are at least five different locations where the waves break. And when the waves are pumping, however rare, they are just about perfect, with beautifully peeling, head-high lefts and rights. The very best thing about surfing in Xichong is the lack of crowds in the water. You’re more or less guaranteed freedom from the burden of competing for waves, unlike most other surfing spots in the world.
Surfboard rentals are available, thanks to an Australian surf guru who left a bunch of boards behind at the beach when his company went bankrupt last year. They can be rented from the Chinese landlord for at least 20 yuan (US$2.8) per hour, although another good bet is to buy a custom-designed board from one of the several surfboard factories in Longgang at a bargain price.
Surfing has not yet taken off in China, but with Hong Kong and Taiwan supporting burgeoning scenes, it’s only a matter of time. Surfing Magazine, the preeminent surfing publication, just ran a feature story on surfing in China last December. It was the first time China has ever been featured in the major international surfing media. Until this point, I’ve only met one Chinese surfer from the mainland in Shenzhen (he was from Beijing); the rest are foreigners.
Most surfers believe that surf spots should be kept secret. Indeed, it was a tough decision for me to write this article. However, I believe in sharing good things, and everyone deserves to experience the beauty of Xichong. Even if not for surfing, it’s a stunningly beautiful place with plenty to do. I spent two years in Shenzhen before discovering Xichong, and I certainly wish I had found it sooner. It’s the perfect place to escape the rush of the city, relax under the sun and in the water, and enjoy the beauty of the beach.
Directions: From Shenzhen Stadium, take bus 360 to Nan’ao. From there, take a minibus or taxi, or motorbike over the winding mountainous road to Xichong.