Darci Liu, regarded as “China’s first pro surfer,” is now an environmental activist rallying to save the country’s coastlands.
Liu, who was raised about 1,000 kilometers away from the nearest ocean, earned recognition as China’s first professional surfer in 2014, when media outlets reported her participation in various surfing competitions a few years earlier.
Prior to that recognition, Liu who studied ballet until she learned how to swim at just age 18, was for the most part unheard of.
“It’s crazy, right?!” Liu told That’s Shanghai in 2014. “If you look at the situation 10 years ago, and at Chinese women in general. You’d think, really? Chinese girls surfing?! Impossible!”
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It turns out surfing was barely recognized in China, with many locals being unable to swim, despite that half of the entire population reportedly live in coastlands.
And while some could be yearning for the sea, the idea of having tanned skin carries negative social connotations. It is regarded as unattractive and makes someone look like a “rural migrant worker,” to name a few.
Liu is now scheduled to speak at the WISE conference on Oct. 26, happening at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing. Her keynote, titled “Surfing for a Sustainable Future,” will tie her experience as a surfer and campaign as an advocate of the sea. “Nobody likes to surf in waves of trash,” Liu told Radii China. “If you tell Chinese people, ‘don’t eat shark, don’t pollute, don’t do this and that’, they’re not going to listen to you.”
Liu, who also runs a company that sells recyclable beachwear and other eco-friendly products, centers her campaign on creating media content that invoke compassion rather than torment Chinese viewers.
“My goal is to present environmental protection as a lifestyle that is cool, just like a surfer,” Liu said. “We’ll never be able to pick up all the rubbish out there, that’s why we have to address the root of the problem.”
Aside from her upcoming keynote, Liu is also preparing for an environmental documentary that looks to be the Chinese version of the BBC’s “Blue Planet.” She hopes to hold a fundraiser for the project.
“The director I’m working with is still writing the script but the vision is clear: six episodes, all on China’s coastlands. Episode 1 will be about plastic pollution, Episode 2 will be about turtles…” Liu shared.