Lifeguards get tough on Big Wave Bay surfers

The government has been urged to designate Big Wave Bay as a surfing beach, after an apparent crackdown recently on the popular water sport at the gazetted beach.

A surf school says the tougher line follows a number of incidents involving surfers last month.

Buddy Weeks, from Hong Kong Surfing Lesson, said the sport has seen a surge in popularity in the past year, probably because people are stuck in Hong Kong because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

But he said there’s been “a bit of concern from the government” after a number of accidents last month involving surfers at Big Wave Bay and nearby Shek O Beach, when winds from two large tropical storms combined with the winter monsoon to produce huge surf.

In one incident, a helicopter from the Government Flying Services was sent to rescue a surfer and a lifeguard trapped on rocks at the edge of the bay.

Weeks said lifeguards at Big Wave Bay used to “tolerate” surfing, and it would be nice if it could be designated as a surfing beach.

“It’s one of the few beaches in Hong Kong that regularly get waves and it’s an easy access beach for people in Hong Kong. Many other beaches you have to travel quite far to get to them,” Weeks said.

“It would be nice if they make it a designated surfing beach, but currently the [Leisure and Cultural Services Department] has it down as a swimming only beach and they have just been not too stringent on regulation on that beach, until recently.”

However, he’s not optimistic that will happen.

“It would be much preferred if we didn’t sit in this grey area, and surfing was clearly allowed at Big Wave Bay Beach and other beaches with a designated area. But that’s up to the government to do,” he said.

“We have been surfing for quite a while in Hong Kong, but they don’t seem to be interested in making steps in that direction.”

In any case, Weeks said he hopes authorities can step up training for lifeguards as the waves and current at Big Wave Bay can be powerful.

In a statement to RTHK, the LCSD said surfing isn’t allowed inside the buoys at gazetted public beaches to avoid endangering swimmers.

A spokesman said a water safety promotion campaign was carried out on October 23 at Big Wave Bay Beach and people were reminded that surfing wasn’t permitted.

He said staff gave verbal warnings to around 20 surfers that day and no one was prosecuted.

Three surf schools have been operating in Big Wave Bay for over five years, while a number of shops rent out surf and boogie boards.