This week I returned from a very last minute trip to China. To be precise I went to Weifang and Binhai which are around a 1 hour flight from Beijing.
I headed off on this trip pretty much with my eyes closed. Oceansource.net called me to say about this opportunity and that it would be an all expenses paid trip out there. They were adamant that it would be a great trip and are enthusiastic watersports people themselves organisng great trips around the globe for both windsurfers and kitesurfers, it wasn’t long before I was persuaded. China is somewhere I have always had an interest to visit but perhaps not one of my highest priorities so with an all expenses paid kitesurfing trip I couldn’t see where it could go wrong.
This trip had its troubles from the start and having just 5 days to arrange my VISA was cutting things a little fine and I sent my passport and credit card details into what seemed like the abyss and beyond. All I had in my hand was an online appointment that my passport had to make itself to with only the help of a next day delivery ticket from the Royal Mail and some hope of a small Chinese person carrying my passport from A to B. I had visions of interception on the streets of London and instead of a Chinese Visa and a trip to go on I would have a case of stolen Identity and cash removal. Well to be fair it wouldn’t have got much further then Holland with the cash that I have, but still I wasn’t the most comfortable with the Chinese Application Service System. In the end and much to my surprise it worked out perfectly and I was able to pick up my passport with Visa on my way to the airport.
(The first kites were made in China 2,500 years ago. These were dotted everywhere once we arrived))
Flying to Weifang involves 3 flights. London – Dubai – Beijing – Qindao and a 3 hour bus ride to Weifang! Its far... And all for 4 days. I cant tell you how many movies I watched after having completed my book, draining the last minutes of power out of my laptop battery followed by hearing the last song on the battery power of my ipod! Endless hours of waiting and travelling! Its the biggest journey in my experience and despite rating this trip in my top 5 best experiences in my life I am glad that I dont face such a journey again for a while
On arrival we were treated like kings and queens. Approximately 20 countries attended with 1 kiter from each.
We were staying in a 4* hotel and each had our own personal assistant/translator/slave driver. Without fail every morning I’d be woken with the faint knock knock and voice ‘hallo jos wilson’. It became a welcoming that I wouldnt forget because before every question, every statement or every chase up the grand statement of ‘Hallo Jos Wilson’ would come from their mouths. TV interviews were fun ‘Hallo Jos Wilson, how do you find Binhai?’ followed by ‘Hallo Jos Wilson do you like the kitesurfing here’. ‘Hallo Jos Wilson’ at 11pm, 3am and 6am to single, double and triple check my flight times was just not funny!! But they were sweet people just massively excited to see foreigners and very eager to help, so baring this in mind it was great to have them at hand.
The event site was just 40 minutes from the hotel involving several buses and a police escort. On arrival at the site we found it to be a harbour with a beach built just for us. The beach was compact mud and so a massive white sheet had been laid over the top to protect out kites. The water was a huge flat inlet perfect for freestyle and it was the temperature of bath water. It was quite surreal with it lapping over your ankles while riding a long. It was pretty shallow, so you felt safe and the temperature meant that wipeouts were a joy.
The opening ceremony was unlike anything that any other kitesurfing event has ever organised. I havent been to them all, but I'd put money on it. 3,000 government officials were invited alongside approximately 2,000 other people and television companies, radio stations and all other manner of film crews were there for the spectacle. The riders were carried to a barge docked several meters out from the harbourside and on the barge we paraded around carrying our flags alongside a Chinese Model carrying a pole with a sign stating our country.
(Britain didn't get allocated the hottest model but she was pretty nice)
The ceremony was a 3 hour experience with endless speeches, fireworks and a jetski display. Despite the weather (typicall rain and no wind) hords of people turned out to watch wearing colour cordinated ponchos
(there were 4 teams of colours. Im not sure what they represented, but we waved and they all waved back)
In the time we were out there we had one afternoon with wind for my 12m Helix. It wasn’t gusty at all and just perfect. We played around doing freestyle and then ran a 500m race which can only be described with two words ‘FUN’ and ‘CARNAGE’. I finished joint 6th with Willy Kerr from Northern Ireland while the Peter Lynn entrants (kites only) finished up on electricity pylons creating a beautiful explosion for the Chinese to say ‘oooooooooo’! No one was hurt and actually miraculously apparently the kites are fine (cant be said for the lines) so perhaps that gives a little advantage to the Peter Lynn kites should you kite near a power station???
(Jalou Langeree and I keeping it real for Naish 5th and 6th respectively in the mixed category)
Being blonde and fair skinned the Chinese thought it the perfect opportunity to get a photo with this ‘alien’ and with a lot of ‘hoi hoi hoi’ and arm grabbing I found myself having my photo being taken day in and day out. Everywhere we looked there would be some local chinese person grabbing a kiter to get their momento. It was a pretty special feeling and really nice to be part of.
(Jalou Langeree from Naish hiding from the papparazzi)
In the evenings we were treated to some awesome banquets and Chinese Hosting. They really went out of their way to make us feel special. The food was perfectly prepared and some of it delicious but i have to be honest they have a strange diet! On day one I began by cantapulting a chopstick up over my head and determined not to be beaten I settled to have a few spares put by my plate and felt more at home when the guy sat beside me also did the same followed by tipping his glass over with the remaining chopstick. Our coordination skills after a long long flight were something to be desired. Over the course of the next 4 days we swapped marvelled looks at our inability to use chopsticks and their inabilities to use forks.
(thats me embarking on a daunting culinary experience that I will never EVER forget!! Sea Slug - their most expensive and 'delicious' sea food delicacy)
Im waiting to find out how I can get my hands on some action pictures of the kiting, but for now hope you like my pics of this amazing, but extremely bizarre adventure.
I would just like to say thank you to www.oceansource.net for organising with the Chinese officials this amazing trip. Also thank you to Liu Zhipping!