Have you ever been surfing in Korea?
Neither had I, until I joined a surfing trip with the Korean budget travel company Adventure Korea, who again, generously sponsored my trip. It’s only possible to surf at a few beaches in Korea, this one being the Blue Coast, located in Yangyang, Gangwon province. The gentle waves and sandy ocean floor make the Blue Coast ideal for beginning surfers.
We left Seoul early Saturday morning and arrived at our beach side minbak (guesthouse) a few hours later. Our group stayed in both buildings with balconies overlooking the ocean. Some slept in bunk beds while others stayed in traditional Korean style rooms with floor mats and ondol heating.
A small restaurant called Bistro Box was situated between the two guesthouses, serving pizza, chicken, rice and noodle dishes. The colorful patio furniture added to the relaxed, beach-town vibe.
After settling into our rooms, we changed into our bathing suits and rented wet suits at a shop in front of our guesthouse.
Some Canadian group members are pictured above, shimmying into their wet suits. It was an awkward moment for many of us, twisting our bodies into odd, unflattering positions in order to squeeze into these suits.
After ten minutes of constant struggling, here I am in my sexy wet suit. At first, the rental guy gave me a men’s small that was baggy in the crotch and tattered around the neck. After
asking begging him for a new one, I scored this WOMEN’S Billabong model with stylish pink detailing. With my wet suit on, I felt like a superhero, ready to conquer the waves!
Our surf instructor was a tattooed, forty-something year old Korean man with a chiseled body, looking like he rolled into Korea with the surf. He demonstrated how to paddle, prepare, and stand on our board to ride the waves. I had tried surfing twice before, so I somewhat remembered the sequence, but for many, this was their first time.
Even though I had already tried surfing, I did not conquer these (small) waves. I was consistently focused, and I did stand on my board a few times. However, my few successes were strongly outweighed by wipe outs and mere kneeling on the board. My own clumsiness and constant inhalation of sand and salt didn’t stop me from surfing for three hours. I was having too much fun in the ocean.
I wasn’t expecting to see so many Koreans surfing. Apparently, this sport is gaining popularity in Korea with a few bustling spots along the coast and competitions at Haeundae Beach in Busan. Although the waves on the right side of the beach were bigger, I didn’t see many experts. I imagine that most of the surfers who frequent this beach are beginners, although there seems to be a sub-culture of young Korean surfer/snowboarders who wear baggy clothes, spend every weekend at the beach/slopes, and promote their favorite brands.
Additionally, I couldn’t help but check out the hotties on the beach. For a split second, I wanted to move to Gangwon-do.
Throughout the afternoon, everyone surfed at their own pace. Some people turned their boards in after an hour, while others stayed in the water for much longer. The trip was openly structured, and we were free to explore the area, find a place to eat dinner with friends, and relax with a beer on the beach. Since it rained a bit in the afternoon and evening, I opted to hang out on the porch for a couple hours.
After dinner, we all wandered off with our own groups to party that evening. I began the night by ordering cocktails at the Blue Coast bar with several other group members, while chatting with Alex, our now-inebriated surf instructor. Besides the cocktails and a mix of beer and soju, I took shots of specially ordered Nicaraguan rum, brought on the trip by a San Antonion wearing a shirt that said, “I’ve been to Hell and Back.”
Later in the night, the Blue Coast bar closed and a few of us migrated to Shaka bar, located a couple hundred meters down the road. We joined a table full of hilarious Korean surfers who fed us more alcohol. The real kicker was when I saw this photo posted on Facebook the next day and realized that I had four new contacts on my KakaoTalk (smartphone messaging app.)
I clearly look like I’m having the time of my life, even though I have no recollection of this photo being taken.
After an eventful night, we woke up to the gorgeous sunshine and beckoning waves. I immediately changed into my bathing suit, after chugging a bottle of water, and walked down to the beach.
In the morning, we could choose to surf again, relax on the beach, play volleyball or go zip-lining nearby. I chose to rent a surf board and work on perfecting my form (which sadly did not improve.) You can see some zip-lining photos in Adventure Korea’s Facebook album.
At noontime, we packed our bags and drove to Jujeon Valley, located in Seoraksan National Park. After eating a healthy meal of deonjang chiggae (soybean paste stew) and a plethora of side dishes, we embarked on a short hike through the valley.
This structure allows visitors to extract natural mineral water.
We walked at a leisurely pace, gazing at the clear pools of water, jagged peaks, low hanging clouds, and rocky path ahead of us. The beauty of Seoraksan National Park was astounding.
The sight of this flowing waterfall and brilliant teal pool concluded our weekend breathing in the fresh Gangwon-do air before driving back to Seoul.
Yet again, this was a successful trip with adventurous activities, an invigorating beach party, good company, a relaxed atmosphere and beautiful weather (despite the cloudiness and rain on Saturday.) I would love to return to this area to surf, lay on the beach, picnic in the Valley, or merely escape from the chaos of life in a heavily-populated city. Another one of those banana flavored cocktails from the Blue Coast bar would be nice, too.
This new trip is called Surfing, Zip-lining and Jujeon Valley Trekking. Adventure Korea will lead this trip again next summer. It costs 105,000 won (approximately $98), including transportation (a chartered limousine bus), 2 meals (Sunday breakfast& Lunch), minbak accommodation, Saturday surfboard rental and lesson fee. Visit Adventure Korea’s homepage for more trip options.
*Note: This is a sponsored post, but the opinions are, of course, my own.
-Text and photography by Sarah Shaw @ www.mappingwords.com. All rights reserved.