Competitive professional surfing is set to hit a milestone later this year when the ASP holds its first official event on China’s Hainan Island in late October. According to the ASP, the Women’s Longboard Tour will decide a world champion between October 26 – 30 during the first-ever ASP sanctioned contest in the Middle Kingdom. Although many will see the announcement as a positive move for surfing, for Cori Schumacher, last year’s Women’s Longboard Tour winner, the prospect of competing in China has proven to be too much to stomach for the Californian as she has opted to boycott the event.
“I have deep political and personal reservations with being a part of any sort of benefit to a country that actively engages in human rights violations,” Schumacher said.
The current schedule for the Women’s Longboard Tour includes two stops, one in France and the other in China. Schumacher has stated that she will not surf in either event.
In a statement to SURFER regarding Schumacher’s decision to boycott the contest, the ASP said that “[We] would like to see Cori compete in the event as the defending ASP Women’s World Longboard Champion, but we respect her personal decision in choosing to withdraw from the contest.” They went on to add that “The action sports scene is growing in China and a women’s World Longboard Tour event is a great opportunity integrate surfing into the world of Chinese action sports.”
This is not the first time a professional surfer has opted to withdraw from a competition due to political reservations. In 1985, Martin Potter, Tom Carroll, and Tom Curren all refused to compete in South Africa citing their opposition to the apartheid system.
When it was announced that China would host the 2008 Olympics, there existed some debate over boycotting the games, but ultimately no country went on to support the boycott.
In contrast to Schumacher’s opposition, Mary Osborne, a one-time professional surfer who made headlines in September of last year when she and others surfed the Qiantang tidal bore in China, is optimistic about making inroads into the country and views the event as an opportunity to be a positive ambassador for the sport.
“I had one of the best experiences I have ever had [surfing the tidal bore] at an event. It was a bigger event than any women’s surf contest here in California I have been involved with. Overall, it is a great place with lots of potential,” said Osborne. “We were treated with the highest respect from the organizers, government officials, press, and spectators. It was one experience I will never forget in my career as a professional surfer. I honestly can’t wait to go back and hope I get invited this upcoming year…If China is offering to host an event, we should be honored and take advantage of this opportunity.”