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Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Updated: January 12, 1:12 PM ET
Year of the Surf Rat

Sofia Mulanovich, a multiple ISA gold medal winner and overall wonderful ambassador for the sport of surfing.

The inaugural ISA China Cup, part of the Hainan Wanning Riyue Bay International Surfing Festival presented by Quiksilver, is in the books ... make that, the history books.

When first announced several months ago, the concept of throwing a joint ISA/ASP event in China could very easily have been conceived of as a publicity stunt ... after all, it's been done before. But with Team Australia winning ISA gold in the first of the two-event contest series, some things have come into a little more clarity. The number one question was if there are actually waves in China. For three days now competitors have enjoyed peeling lefts in the waist- to shoulder-high range on the palm-lined shores of Hainan. Surfing now exists in China.

Just six months after winning the ISA Billabong World Surfing Games in Panama, Australia repeated the victory at Wanning Riyue Bay to take the China Cup on Tuesday. Aussie Heath Joske won a come-from-behind final to edge out Floridian Cory Lopez. Jokse took the men's gold and led the Aussies to an overall first placing.

"I was stoked when I got the call up for this event because no way in the world did I ever think I'd come to China," said Joske afterwards. "I was pretty pumped to actually check out the place and see what it was all about. To get a win in the inaugural event, a historical event -- I'm stoked."

Not just the place where all your boardshorts are made anymore, proof positive that surfing can be a spectator sport in China.

Frenchman Marc Lacomare took third place, which catapulted Team France to a silver medal, while Australian team captain, Nic Muscroft, rounded out the final. Backed by Lopez and San Clemente's Chris Ward, who went all the way to round six, Team US ultimately came away with the bronze.

"I'm really, really happy," testified Peru's Sofia Mulanovich, the 2004 World Champ and 2004 ISA World Games gold medalist, who again took gold to lead Peru to a fourth place finish. "The waves are super fun, I've been hanging with my team, it is just been an amazing week. Plus, I haven't really won a contest like this in a while; I got a little sensitive and almost started crying."

Today kicks off the second phase of Quiksilver's festival with the ASP 4-star Hainan Classic. The back-to-back events are fairly groundbreaking, bringing surfing to China, where a new emerging middle-class now has time and disposable income for such recreational pursuits. It's something that the ISA's Fernando Aguerre is extremely excited about -- 14,500 miles of coastline (the tenth most in the world) and over 1.3 billion people. Yeah, billion.

"This is the first but not the last ISA China Cup that we're going to run in this country," said Aguerre. "Next year we're coming back to continue to make inroads to surfing in China."

The surf has reportedly picked up today for the 4-star and the first Chinese surfer is surfing today in an ASP event, that sounds like a pretty good start.