Riding The Wave Into China’s Latest Hype — Land Surfing

Move over glamping and frisbee, a new pastime has emerged as Gen Z’s favorite hobby — land surfing. In parks and squares across China, young locals can be spotted balancing atop long skateboards, moving their bodies as if surfing the waves. Over the past two years alone, 6 million citizens have adopted the waterless recreation.

Land surfing is a type of skateboarding and is similar to surfing and skiing. The sport has rapidly risen in popularity among young cohorts thanks to its relatively low entry barrier — it is inexpensive and easy to experience. Plus, unlike skiing which requires a specific location, land surfing can be enjoyed in non-coastal and mountain areas. 

Driving the hype are celebrities like Ouyang Nana and Peng Yuyan, who share images of themselves practicing the sport on social media. According to Xiaohongshu data, searches for “land surfing” showed a significant rise since February this year. In May 2022, the number of related posts increased by 460 percent year-on-year, reflecting the potential of the sector.

According to Xiaohongshu data, searches for “land surfing” increased by 460 percent year-on-year this May. Photo: Xiaohongshu Screenshots

Danni Liu, General Manager at iBLUE Communications Europe & US office, believes the strong social aspect of the activity helped it become popular so quickly. “By taking photos and videos of themselves land surfing, people can create a cool, trendy, and distinctive image on social media,” she explained. Many have formed their own communities online to share their experience and make friends with like-minded people. Beijing-based land surfing enthusiast Duo Lan created a group in April: in four months it had garnered over 1,500 members. 

Given this popularity, sales of skateboards have also risen significantly. Douyin e-commerce data shows that the sales growth of skateboard products increased by 353 percent in 2021. And despite homegrown makers’ offerings coming in cheaper at $115-220 (800-1400 RMB) than their international rivals’ prices of $190-500 (1300-3500 RMB), global firms specializing in skateboarding are favored by domestic consumers given their time-proven expertise in the field. “For example, the aluminum alloy of the front axle bracket part, its ratio determines the strength, ductility, and resistance of the material. It takes years of testing to get the best effect,” shared Jia Xudong, China president of the land surfing brand Carver. 

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Since the beginning of this year, the transactions of imported labels on Tmall Global have achieved triple-digit year-on-year growth. Popular ones on the platform include Spanish establishment Yow and Penny from Australia. June saw more companies enter the marketplace — 15 overseas businesses including the pioneering surfboarding line Carver and veteran name Santa Cruz landed on Tmall Global. 

Clearly, the nascent industry is getting crowded, and players will need to double down on their efforts to consolidate their market share. For instance, Spanish skateboard outfit Yow collaborated with the Japanese denim group Moussy to organize an offline land surfing event in Wuhan for female surfers. “The physical initiative helps to build brand affinity and stay on top of consumers’ minds,” stated Liu. Given the current COVID outbreaks, offline activities may be at risk in the short term due to potential lockdowns; however, over time physical events will boost consumer engagement and loyalty.

Spanish skateboard outfit Yow collaborated with the Japanese denim group Moussy to organize an offline land surfing event in Wuhan for female surfers. Photo: Moussy

The hype about activities like frisbee, camping, and land surfing only illustrates the continuing rise of the mainland’s love for niche sports, and outdoor activities. In light of this, equipment and athleisure wear created for these scenarios will deliver sales. Good news for brands looking to ride the wave.