A brief introduction to a really fun activity that you can do in Hong Kong, enjoying unusual landscapes.
In a nutshell, coasteering is the activity of exploring a rocky coastline by hiking, climbing, jumping, and swimming. Trying to be as near as possible to the water line. So you need to be comfortable scrambling on rocks, wet surfaces, swimming open water and handling waves.
Clothes. Fast drying, non chafing fabrics. In colder areas coasteering is done with wetsuits, which adds a significant protection to skin but it is too hot and cumbersome for most part of the year in Hong Kong. Specific canyoning or water shoes are the best: five tens for example. If you don’t want to invest in this kind of shoes your second best option are (trail) running shoes with softer soles: I have had good experience with the Asics 2000 non-trail running series and others. Try to avoid clunky, heavy and hard soled shoes or you will feel like on skates as soon as the rocks are bit wet. Avoid water shoes with no lacing system too, you might lose them in the waves. Full article with shoe information.
Additional material. Gloves, in this case, are a must. Knee and elbow pads, or long sleeves and pants, can help avoid scratches getting in and out of the water (barnacles and others).
A waterproof bag, ideally sturdy and buoyant. The secondary option is to use your standard backpack (trail running with lower profiles might be best) with dry clothes and other stuff within, at least, a couple of zipper bags. Goggles can help you significantly in the (short) swim sections above all when trying to find the best “landing” point among the rocks, urchins, and barnacles.
Additional security gear. A helmet, life-jacket, rope, and others can be handy depending on the route and your ability. In my case, I bring a 5m rope to help (mainly tow in the water) others. Also a mesh cutter like the below one.
Fishing nets left behind in the coastline can be (from nuisance to) a real danger and that little thing (10cm) or a scuba knife will help you out of them. I prefer the former, cause you can operate it easier, with way less chance of injuring yourself in a stress scenario. I also bring a Personal Locator Beacon that allows me to ask for help anywhere in the world meanwhile I have unobstructed visual access to the sky, i.e. connection with satellites. This is not necessary and quite expensive, but includes an extra layer of security. A gadget that I bought hoping to never need to use it.
You need to be comfortable scrambling. A video summarizing the main concepts.
If you want to go to the next level, increasing difficulty, you can find tons of videos on Youtube with climbing technique, for example:
There is a nice concept in climbing called “problem solving”. The problem is the wall in front of you and depending on your technique, body, and fitness, different routes might be optimal. The more you do it the more efficient you will become coasteering. She looking from the top realizing that I found a way easier/safer lower route and was quite ahead of her 😛
In the case of coasteering to the problem solving you add an additional challenge or help: sea, water and waves. If you are a good swimmer you can always “cheat” and swim longer sections. This is not the goal, but on average you can swim way faster than scramble, among others cause you can do it in a straight line. The problem for some will be to get in an out of the water considering the waves, rocks, barnacles and urchins.
A long video explaining everything about the waves
The most important part is in the 7m07s. There you will see that the wave will move you mainly up and down and a bit to the front and back again. So, how to be safe? Keeping enough distance from the rocks for that forward motion. It will depend on the wave size, but usually, it might be a shorter distance than what you think.
In the video, you can see the relationship between wave length, amplitude, and others. For a wave to break the lower (underwater) force needs to be slowed down by contact with any solid surface. If it is a nicely sloped sandbar then you get the surfing waves.
In rocky more vertical surfaces the waves will break more abruptly. The more time you spend swimming open water close to the coastline the more you will understand several patterns. Usually, waves tend to come in series. 3 to 5 big waves are followed by another 3 to 5 of smaller ones (just saying random numbers, will depend on the situation), then other big ones, etc. You will also realize that you can use them to help you instead of hurting you, even as kind of a lift to higher ground if your timing is good enough. Play safe initially and try to approach the rocks when the waves are smallest.
If you calculate wrong and you realize that the wave is going to push you against the rocks, put your feet between you and the rocks. You should be able to control the “landing”: the rubber on your shoes is the safest contact point. If necessary, push yourself out back into the sea and reassess your exit. The main reason why people get injured is for panicking and trying to grab the rocks with their hands or similar. You can end up with urchin spikes, barnacle scratches, or, even worse, hitting yourself with the head or other parts of your body against the rock.
Once I am talking about waves, here the full speech that I used for years in my old lifeguard life. Rip currents. Do not panic, do not try to swim against them. In very few occasions you will find something like that in a rocky shoreline but in the case just learn how they work.
For wave and wind forecast I tend to use magicseaweed and windguru website. Also the tides. Usually the lower the tide the more options you will have and you might be able to just wade instead of swim some sections.
Where can you go coasteering? I have already uploaded several routes but you can also check the Catalogue of coasteering routes by Colin. It was one of the nicest discoveries quite some time ago. Detailed maps
with explanations of what you will find, difficulty, estimated times, etc
In most of the cases we agree with the grading but there are some differences. The main one, I guess, comes from our background, his more climb related and in my case long-distance swimming & surfing. In any case a wonderful resource for your initial explorations.
Before ending, remember that this can be dangerous.
She just got a big scratch on her back but I like to show it as a reminder. You really need to be focused on the waves, if you are not a good swimmer nor confident in open water this might not be your thing and if climbing high you better know what you are doing. Don’t go alone. Check if rocks are solid enough (sea salt erodes them). Increase difficulty step by step.