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The surf in Vietnam was immortalized in Francis Ford Coppola's Vietnam war epic. Apocalyse Now. Ironi¨cally, those surfing scenes were shot in Balere in the Philippines, but US soldiers did surf during the war at Chaina Beach a popular destination for R & R. During this time the China Beach Surf Club was established. Recently founding member Larry Martin recalled those days and explained the appeal of surfing there. You'd be surprised how perfect it would get. The summer swells were 3-6ft, but during the monsoon season (winter) the surf was unreal, with huge waves up to 12ft that were extremely easy to ride." Martin was one of the few US soldiers who ac¨tually signed on for extra duty ... just so he could surf another monsoon season.

After the US pulled out in 1975, the waves rolled in untouched. Then, in 1993, a group of American students arranged a goodwill surfing "mission" to teach the basics of the sport to two dozen young Vi¨etnamese. The trip concluded with the Americans having a surfing competition against an invitation team from Bali, while the Vietnamese competed amongst themselves. Over 1000 curious locals watched the event, which was broadcast on US tel¨evision. That event introduced surfing at a grass-roots level. But in October 1993 Vietnam felt the full force of the modern professional surfing scene in the form of the US$60,000 Saigon Floating Hotel Surf Pro, which was held at Non Nuoc, the place the Ameri¨cans had once called China Beach. The symbolism and uniqueness of the event ensured that many of the top surfers in the world competed, and the inter¨national media entourage was the largest ever for an ASP event. Vietnam's waves aren't known for their reliability, but the surfing gods smiled on this memo¨rable occasion, and a typhoon off the Philippines sent over swells that produced waves described as some of the best on the 1993 tour.

But despite the enthusiasm of the locals who attended, and various attempts to introduce the sport to the Vietnamese, surfing has remained in the shad s A few Australian surfers still pass through, but a handful of locals who surf China Beach breaks dotted around the central coast. One project in the pipeline that could re-ignite interest is an expanded Asian Surfing Tour being proposed by the ASP. Host countries pencilled in for the circuit are Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines and Malaysia. Though the idea is only in the discussion stage, there's a genuine belief that the tour could become a reality in 1999.

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