Department Invites SHACC Board Member to
Promote Surfing in China
Surfing Heritage and Culture Center’s board of
directors member, Glenn Brumage, was recently invited to Beijing by the U.S.
Department of State to participate in the 7th annual U.S. / China Consultation
on People-to-People Exchange (CPE), which promotes high-level discussions
between the two nations on topics including sports, culture, education, science
and technology, health and women’s issues. This year, the 2nd annual U.S. – China Sports Seminar was held in conjunction
with the CPE where Brumage spoke to members of the China General Administration
of Sports and Beijing Sports University on the subject of promoting the sport
of surfing and developing an Olympic level surf training center in advance of
the 2020 Tokyo games.
Via telephone interview, Brumage talked about how he was
selected to be a part of the U.S-China Sports Seminar and how surfing is
beginning to take-off in China.
Surfing has been an international sport, passion
and lifestyle for more than a half century; why has it taken so long for the
sport to gain a foothold in China?
You have to remember that until 1989, China was a
closed society. They had very little contact with western culture and sports.
They did not benefit from the rebirth of surfing in the early 1900’s and its
rise in popularity during the heady days of the 1960’s. Until recently, they’d
never heard of Duke Kahanamoku, seen the Endless Summer or heard a Beach Boys
song. They simply don’t have the cultural bond to the lifestyle that we have in
the US, Australia and Europe.
Tell us how you were selected by the U.S.
Department of State to represent and promote the sport of surfing at this
The simple answer is that I’ve been promoting
surfing in China for eight years. My Chinese counterparts invited me to
participate in the CPE four years ago.
The imminent inclusion of surfing in the 2020 Olympics has finally raised
the Chinese government’s interest in the sport.
Describe the shifts you’ve witnessed in recent
years in terms of China’s government being more receptive and supportive of
international action sports events?
It’s kind of a love hate relationship. They like the
idea that board sports are “individual” and that people tend to participate
throughout their lives. They see this as a health benefit in a society where
socialized medicine is responsible for you until you die so keeping you healthy
is an imperative. But they haven’t really respected what they’ve seen of the
boardsports culture in the media.
Talk about the significance of these talks — to
U.S./ China relations, and the future of surfing in China?
Like it or not, the government plays a significant
role in Chinese life and it isn’t going to change any time soon. In fact, they
like it that way. That said, there are at least one or two government agencies
responsible for every aspect of life, including sports. While grassroots
surfing, skateboarding and snowboarding have grown in China, it takes interest
(and financial support) from the governing bodies before they have any chance
of significant growth. An Olympic-recognized sport has a much better chance of
that critical support, so these discussions were an opportunity to introduce
that concept and prepare for the IOC members vote coming up in August 2016.
meetings present a rare opportunity for me to engage with my Chinese
counterparts to discuss sports goals and objectives with the people of China
during the course of the next few years.
What are your goals and role as Director
Business Development Wabsono International?
My job at Wabsono is to develop business
opportunities that support the sports of surfing and skateboarding. The more
business opportunity there is, the more financial support there is for
increasing engagement in these emerging sports.
You’ve been traveling to China with Peter “PT”
Townend for the past several years to help coordinate the Red Bull Qiantang
Surfing Shootout. Tell us what makes this event so unique and how it has
helped elevate awareness of competitive surfing in China.
The wave known as the “Silver Dragon” comes from the
tidal surge that comes from the East China Sea into the Hangzhou Bay down the
Qiantang River. It presents numerous challenges, as the Qiantang “river bore”
wave is unusual in its size, diversity, quality and its path through the middle
of the city of Hangzhou. The Red Bull Qiantang Shootout is the first of its kind surf contest that
pits four two-man teams of surfers equipped with a jet ski, against each other
on the most unusual wave in the world. It is a unique event that attracts Chinese mainstream media that wouldn’t
normally cover surfing or for that matter any “action sports.”
Now that the International Olympic Committee has
announced that surfing will be part of the 2020 games in Tokyo Japan, do
you believe China will field a team of surfers to take part in competition?
While I believe that surfing and skateboarding are
going to make the cut, let's not jinx it. There is still one vote to go.
But, assuming it is announced, yes, the PRCOC and
Chinese General Administration of Sports will most likely want to participate.
How does your participation in the U.S. – China
Sports Seminar help fulfill SHACC’s mission — to preserve, present and promote
the sport of surfing for the appreciation and education of current and future
I hope that by presenting the true history of
surfing and surfing culture, rather than the media driven view they now see,
they will embrace the culture as a healthy and desirable lifestyle. We want
them to understand that surfing promotes lifetime health, environmental
awareness, creativity and a positive state of mind.
Last summer in Washington DC, you helped
spearhead SHACC’s historic donation and collaboration with the Smithsonian
Institution’s National Museum of American History (NMAH). In your view,
does the emergence of surfing’s popularity in a communist nation compare in
magnitude to surfing being recognized by the Smithsonian as a catalyst for
social change and innovation in the U.S.?
Not to lessen our effort in China but for me,
nothing compares to the NMAH’s recognition of surfing's impact on American
culture and the potential future collaborations with our nation's preeminent
museums. In addition to working with NMAH and the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center
for the Study of Invention and Innovation, the SHACC contingency worked hand in
hand with the National Museum of the American Indian to celebrate and honor
Duke Kahanamoku’s 125th birthday during the same weekend. I am proud of what we accomplished and humbled by the emotional reactions
shown by everyone who participated. It wasn’t easy, but it was a labor of love for everyone at Surfing
Heritage and Culture Center. I only hope that we can continue to build upon these
types of historic events and spread stoke and awareness about surfing’s rich
history and increasingly global culture.