Surf’s Up, Hong Kong
Say ‘Hong Kong’ and surfing is probably the last thing that comes to mind. With such an iconic city skyline and reputation as a shopping mecca, many people do not know that surfing is even possible here. But surfing in Hong Kong has actually been around since the 60’s, slowly gaining momentum until exploding onto the scene in recent years. Big Wave Bay on Hong Kong Island has always been the focal point of the surfing scene, but with the opening of Hong Kong’s first professional surf school – Surf Hong Kong – in Sai Kung in 2011, both locals and expats are now jumping right in.
(This post was originally published in June 2014 and updated in October 2016)
Tai Long Wan – Sai Kung East country park
Tai Long Wan Bay is made up of three beaches: Tai Wan, Ham Tin and Sai Wan. These are by far the most beautiful and cleanest beaches in Hong Kong, though it is a bit of a trek to get there. With soft white sand beaches and crystal clear water, you won’t believe you are still in Hong Kong.
Sai Wan – home to Surf Hong Kong – is the most accessible beach in the area, with an easy hike in/out and plenty of public amenities. The waves in Sai Wan are beginner friendly and much safer and more gentle (even when bigger) than many other surf beaches in Hong Kong.
Tai Wan is the most consistent surf break in Hong Kong and is generally known as providing the best quality waves in the region. During the summer months the waves are beginner-friendly but beginners beware, during the winter Tai Wan consistently has large and powerful surf with strong rip tides and shifting sandbanks. Due to the isolation of this beach you should not paddle out alone unless you are very confident in your ability.
Ham Tin is right next to Tai Wan. The waves tend to be smaller here than Tai Wan but due to the steeper beach the waves break much closer to the shore. Good for bodyboarding and bodysurfing, or for surfing during a big swell.
Big Wave Bay – Hong Kong Island
Big Wave Bay is the birthplace of Surfing in Hong Kong and remains the focal point of the HK surf scene. It’s easily accessible by road and has all the amenities you’d want at a beach – great for a quick trip. However this easy access also brings with it the crowds, making it by far the most crowded surf-spot in HK, occasionally getting manically busy on summer weekends. Big Wave Bay also can provide large and powerful waves, so if you are unsure of your ability be wary of paddling out too far. There are many boards available to rent at BWB but be sure to choice a board which is appropriate to your level and check condition of the board before you paddle out!
If your unsure about different boards have a look here before heading out.
Cheung Sha and Pui O – Lantau
During the summer months, swells arrive in HK from the south and can bring some great waves to the beaches of South Lantau. Beaches like Pui O and Cheung Sha can provide some of the best waves in HK on their day, but with many islands and bays offshore it can be fickle. There are good amenities and board rentals available on both beaches, although public transport can be tricky on weekends! Due to the proximity of these beaches to the Pearl River Delta, it is advisable to avoid surfing here after heavy rain.
Getting started, beginners
Depending on the time of year and the kind of waves you are looking for, HK has a few different options available to the beginner surfer. It is always a good idea to start with a few lessons, just to get an understanding of the basic surfing and safety techniques to enjoy the waves.
Surf Hong Kong, based in Tai Long Wan (Sai Kung) provides group and private lessons for all ages and abilities, all year round. Lessons start from $450 for two hours, including all equipment and tuition.
They also offers three or five-day overnight adventure kid camps at their base in Tai Long Sai Wan. Surfing, canyoning, kayaking and more! For children aged 8–17, this is a great way for kids to have a real surfing adventure without getting on a plane.
Boards and surf gear
Clothes and accessories
There are numerous surf and lifestyle shops all over Hong Kong, but if you are looking for surf-specific equipment head to X-Game or Island Wake in Causeway Bay, or to the newly opened Volcom store in LCX Harbour City. Be sure to quote this HK-Hub article at Volcom (LCX harbour city) to claim a 10% discount on your next in-store purchase!
That old maxim holds true – don’t run before you can walk. It may look cool to walk around with a board designed by Kelly Slater, but if you don’t know how to ride it the truth will be revealed once you hit the water!
Start off with a larger board – at least 8-foot long – and get the basics first. Soft boards are safer and more stable to stand on so are a good way to focus on technique without worrying about falling off. As a beginner, short, fibre-glassed boards are much more difficult to ride and the risk of injury to yourself or others is much higher. However once you get the hang of it they are great fun!
If you are thinking of buying your own surfboard- be cautious of simply buying the latest trend and think realistically about your ability to ride, control and enjoy that board. Check out Makara Surfboards for locally designed boards more suited to Hong Kong waves.