Palm Beach in Cheung Sha offers sun, sand and surfing for children
Wave reviews for kids' water sports club
Mick Ware and his family live in Sai Kung, but during the summer they rent his company's holiday house on the south shore of Lantau Island.
While many Hong Kong children spend summers at air-conditioned shopping malls, checking out the latest cool toys and games, and sipping fizzy drinks, the Wares go to Palm Beach, a campsite on the boundary of upper and lower Cheung Sha Beach that rents out water activity equipment and offers teepees for families to hire for overnight stays.
The point is to provide alternatives to children burying their noses in screens, be it a smartphone, tablet or computer.
And that's why Eliza Lee Yuk-ying and her business partner, Tommy Leung Mun-tong, opened Palm Beach four years ago. "Kids these days spend too much time interacting with screens, playing computer games and mobile phones," Lee says. "We just want to give them a chance to be exposed under the sun and do some real outdoor activities."
Palm Beach offers a board riding camp every summer for young surfers aged seven to 14 who register to learn a variety of water sports and have fun safely.
In the three-day camp, kids will get to try out skim boarding, a small board on which surfers ride in shallow waters, on top of waves; boogie boarding, in which riders lie on the board to surf; and stand-up paddle boarding, in which surfers stand and use the paddle to propel themselves. Each session costs about HK$2,000.
Two of Ware's sons - James, 11, and Jack, eight - are in their third year at camp. Another son, the youngest, is expected to join next year.
Mick Ware, who has 30 years of surfing experience, says his children enjoy the variety available. "Jack, the younger boy, enjoys boogie boarding more, while James enjoys skim boarding more," he says.
James says: "We're allowed to do whatever we want. And whatever we wanted to do, they would be there to help us. I chose skim boarding and they taught me all about it. They taught all the cool tricks and some basics."
He hopes to perfect his 180-degree turn this summer. "The best thing I can do so far is to go really fast," he says.
Lee says it's that variety that makes Palm Beach stand out. "Our theory is that not every kid enjoys the same sport," she says. "We give them the opportunity to try as many things as possible so that they can make up their own mind."
Of course, Palm Beach is not the only place offering summer surfing classes. Treasure Island and Global Adventures - also on Lantau - says it teaches children to teenagers according to their ability and by level.
Another factor in choosing Cheung Sha Beach, Mick Ware says, is that it's not particularly dangerous. The children can go out 10 to 15 metres from the shore, and the water is still shallow.
"Even if there was some trouble, the guys can just stand up most of the time." The camp, Ware also suggests, has got good skim boarding instructors, setting him and his wife free from worries.
One of those instructors is Leo Espada, from the Philippines. Apart from rapidly changing surf conditions, Espada says another common threat is being hit by surfboards.
"They need to learn the proper way to hold the board and how to drag it out safely," says Espada, who has been skim-boarding for 14 years. He sees to it that his students learn the correct steps on the dry land first, before venturing into the sea. Palm Beach's leaflet for the camp states: "All participants must be able to swim at least 15 metres."
But as with any activity, there are drawbacks. Parents may not want their children to go all the way to the south shore of Lantau, even though Lee points out that Palm Beach runs a shuttle bus between the camp and the Tung Chung MTR station.
But Ware says the time outdoors with his family is all worth the trouble: "Finding a good activity - not only for fun, but also to allow kids to learn a set of skills and go into the water - that is quite hard."