By Lorie Ann Cascaro
HONG KONG — Big Wave Bay in Hong Kong Island turned into a collage of colored umbrellas and tents this past Easter holiday. Hundreds of people sunbathed while their children were digging in the white sandy beach with plastic toys.
Swell rarely happen in the bay after winter, but Typhoon Maysak made the waves favorable for surfing. Waves at 0.6 meters high appeared every 11 to 12 seconds with a speed of 6 to 8 knots on April 6, according to Magicseaweed’s forecast.
Some 20 surfers paddled up as a wave chased behind them. Before the wave broke out into white foams, one of them had already pulled off a surfing stunt.
Wearing a black rash guard and striped board shorts, a 39-year-old Scottish woman was sitting on a surfboard in the inner part of the swell.
It was easy to find her in the crowd when she still had dreadlocks, said Julie Barrass, a European headhunter, renting a house in Big Wave Bay. She has known Jacqueline Donaldson and most regular beachgoers since she moved here eight years ago.
Barrass was smoking cigarette beside the lifeguard tower when Donaldson came out of the water carrying an 8-foot blue fun board.
Donaldson’s former dreadlocks once saved her life during a surfing accident in 2011 by cushioning the blow as she landed on the seabed. She suffered only a spinal compression fracture.
Having worn dreads since 2009, she considered removing them, but felt guilty “like killing a pet or betraying someone who’d saved my life.”
Changing her style, she took out her dreadlocks in Thailand early this year.
After washing up, Donaldson tied her shoulder-length hair and sat with some friends, lounging and sipping beer with upbeat songs from a tiny portable speaker.
A Filipino born in Hong Kong, Anton Pelayo, 29, joined her, laying down his surfboard. He met Donaldson when “she was doing cinematography video stuff and teaching drama to kids.”
Donaldson took film and photography at the University of Wales College, Newport in United Kingdom.
The two friends had their late lunch at a restaurant facing the beach. It was packed mostly with foreigners.
“I’m going to get the anchovies pizza… Put lemon in my beer please,” she told Pelayo and headed to the toilet.
“She’s a very friendly outspoken lady,” Pelayo said.
Donaldson first came here in 2001 from trips in Pakistan, India, and Nepal and back to Pakistan, her favorite country next to New Zealand. She saw Pakistan before the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.
“Of course, now it’s not that safe there anymore,” she said.
After seven months in Hong Kong as English tutor, she travelled to China and Southeast Asia. She tracked wild Orangutans in North Sumatra with a friend. Then, she came back for a year and travelled around Australia and New Zealand.
Settling down here since 2007, she had taught English through drama and pop-culture programs, and took different film projects for free to build up her cinematography skills.
She works as a fitting model and cinematographer on corporate video and independent films, while managing her company, Media, Theatre and Modeling Consultants.
“Did you see the documentary about the Jonestown massacre? I sent you the link,” she excitedly told Pelayo, who was at the time devouring his burger and fries.
Donaldson was hooked into cult documentaries, exploring similar ideas to document in Hong Kong.
She got permanent residency here in 2014. Foreigners can get a legal status of permanent resident if they have lived here lawfully for seven years.
Itching to travel again, she planned to celebrate her 40th birthday in Hawaii by the end of the year.
After lunch, Pelayo asked if she wanted to surf again.
“I don’t like the waves today. But, I want to get more,” she replied, as her turquoise eyes widened.
Having invested here for 15 years, Donaldson wanted to keep Hong Kong as her base at the moment.
“You never know what will happen in life, love or family. Maybe, one day, I’ll have to move somewhere else.