HONG KONG DISPATCH
Recently our friend Brad Fyffe took a trip (with his 12’6” AIR board) to the unique and bustling city of Hong Kong. Hong Kong is historically a melting pot of Chinese heritage and British colonial influence. It has one the highest population densities in the world, and with its intense clash of skyscrapers, temples, and lush mountaintops, is the perfect backdrop for a surreal paddling experience.
This is what Brad had to say amidst his journey:
“I took a few days and headed off to Hong Kong and went on a solo mission. I paddled throughout the city on this water way that leads out to the ocean. Once I got out to the ocean I discovered a bunch of tiny islands off the coast. So I decided to take the journey out to one of the islands. I didn’t’ know how far I was going but I knew I wanted to get to these remote islands that were luring me in.
So off I went with the city of skyscrapers diminishing behind me in the distance. I had a moment of solitude, which is hard to find in the most densely populated city in the world. Escaping close to 10 million people out to my remote island for the day.
When I reached the island I felt so isolated as if no one had ever been here before; discovering new land, a true pioneer. There were no signs of human belongings or structures that could lead me to believe anyone had actually been there before. There was the rocky coastline that was littered with beach glass that had found a new home after years of floating in the South China Sea. There were whole glass bottlenecks smoothed out in every color, shape, and size.
I sat along the shoreline and reflected back at the city that reached towards the sky. It appeared as a never-ending stretch of skyscrapers nestled along the slopes of lush mountainside. Both beautiful in their respective ways with each building window telling a different story. Each window looking out onto the beauty of a world most will never know.
I took that moment to reflect, “How in the world did I end up here? In China?” “What led me to where I am at today? What chain of events happened in order to lead me to this very moment?” Living life way out of my comfort zone, but finding myself in a familiar place with a board under my feet and a paddle in hand. It was an incredibly rejuvenating feeling being out there alone; a feeling that I will never forget.
I gathered up some sea glass as a souvenir and parted with the island. The wind had picked up in the middle of the channel and I slowly fought my way back towards the city. It felt like an R10 Buoy (a buoy that sits west of Palos Verdes, CA roughly 8 miles south of Manhattan Beach) run when the wind picks up and you have to paddle on one side the whole way back. I caught some side bumps and a few wakes from boats that would come by every once in a while. The board worked great!
As I approached the city heading back down the channel that I started from, I came across random joggers, walkers, and people fishing along the canal giving me the strangest looks, hoots, hollers, and people yelling “how cool” in their Chinese accents. There were a lot of thumbs ups and simply blank stares. I looked up at the windows of the skyscrapers and saw families and kids looking down waving their hands in the air hoping I would see them. As I saw them I would wave back with a smile on my face or raise my paddle in the air to acknowledge them. The kids would get even more excited and wave back faster. It was as if they had never seen a paddle board before. I laughed to myself on the inside and kept on paddling. These people had never been on a SUP, but still connected and shared ‘the stoke’ and ‘aloha’ of the sport.
When I arrived back to my destination I rested along the banks of the canal. People came up and asked to take pictures and figure out what I was doing. I would make small talk in my broken Chinese and them in their broken English. I remember Doris, an older lady out on her daily sunset walk. I let her hold the paddle and put the board in her hands. We took photos and shared a few laughs. She was so stoked. It made her day beyond anything imaginable. I was happy to be a part of that.
Later I looked up on a map where I paddled and I had ended up paddling about 12 miles round trip. Sha Tin was the part of the city I started in, but I couldn’t find the name of the little island I landed on.
No one in China appreciated or understood my story. I tried to tell my co-workers who are all Chinese, and I showed them the photos, and of course they were all tripping out. They gave me the nickname of “Shen Jing Bing” pronounced as “Zen Gin Bean” which translates to “Crazy Guy” haha! So I guess I have a Chinese name now.
The 12’6” AIR worked great, very stable, and had great glide on the water. It was easy to pump up. The pump worked great and I got it hard enough to provide the support and structure needed so that you don’t get that trampoline affect some inflatables give. So I was stoked on that. You should have seen me pumping up the board in the hotel lobby at a 4 star Marriott Hotel. Imagine a surfer kid from California walking through the lobby with no shoes, a board, a paddle, and a bellmen holding the door open for him as he left the hotel. The bellmen were tripping out too. The manager came over to me and I thought he was going kick me out. Instead he snapped some photos of me and also some photos of the board to send to his friends.
For my next trip I’m planning to explore the island of Macau. Word is it’s the Vegas of China, but Vegas on steroids with an old town Portugal vibe with old forts and churches. I figure religion and sin go hand in hand so we shall see what kind of adventure I can get into over there.