Stab Magazine | Kim Jong Un’s Doing His Best To Help Surfing

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Kim Jong Un’s Doing His Best To Help Surfing

Dodging fences and military patrols may cease for those hoping to surf inside Korea’s DMZ thanks to recent reconciliations. 

news // May 29, 2018
Words by stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

North and South Korea’s recent kiss and make-up has done more than partially resolve the ongoing political, nuclear and social bickering between the two nations.

The peace summit between the countries leaders late last month has instilled a sense of hope throughout their populations at large, more surprisingly, a small but dedicated group of South Korean surfers.

That’s right, you read correctly, Korean surfers.

‘Surf’ – or 서핑을하다 – isn’t the first word that pops to mind when a casual conversation transitions from Trump to the Korean conflict. But where there’s waves, there’s surfers, and despite a lack of exposure, there’s quality uncrowded waves and people there to ride them.

The recent political amendments are breaking down societal stigmas at large and literal access barriers for a bunch of south-east coast locals, at the creatively named, “Surfyy Beach”.

Surffy Beach giving Bondi a run for it’s money on the tourist front. Photo. CNN

For most of us, the only barriers we face on the way for a surf is an overcrowded carpark, the red and yellow flags, and if we’re truly unlucky, a lookout which requires us to actually exit the front seat of our car.

Lee Hyung-Joo however, the owner of the surf camp at Surfyy Beach, faces considerably more; how do barbed wire fences, military outposts and security surveillance sound on your sandy stroll?

Barbed wire fences are one thing, but military bases less than 300 metres away are another. Here’s Gajin Beach less than 30km from the border. Photo. CNN

It’s a far cry from the likes of Bondi and Malibu that’s for sure.

It is however the reality of surfing at Surfyy Beach – which sits just 70km south of the North Korean border.

In 1996, 17 South Koreans including soldiers, civilians and police were killed when a 13 North Korean soldiers came ashore from a submarine. 2002 saw a similar incident when six South Koreans died during an offshore navy battle and four more were killed in 2010 when North Korea shelled the island, Yeonpyeong.

“We’ve had this kind of environment for so long, we’re not really intimidated by the military action or soldiers passing by”. Lee Hyung-Joo told CNN about surfing at home.

That’s one way to keep the crowds out. Photo. CNN

However, if peace negotiations continue, there’s a strong chance that currently restricted and therefore unsurfable zones inside the DMZ may be opened up to the public.

“If somehow peace will end the war and maybe there’s a peace treaty signing… then I don’t think they’ll have use for this barbed wire and also the military bases on the beach,” Lee told CNN.

There’s also the possibility of venturing beyond the DMZ, past the border and into the North too. Soon Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae-in might be doing more than shaking hands, they might be entering into the Duct Tape Invitational tandem event – let’s just hope they don’t have any localist tendencies.

Three years ago, Kim Jong Un opened up what’s potentially the next 1,550 mile (read: seven mile) miracle along North Korea’s east coast to those looking to slide along some regime controlled walls – you dial into the North’s best surf spots right here!

Asian Highway 6 is Korea’s equivalent of the Great Ocean Road.

There’s everything from learner friendly logging in “30cm to 100cm waves” at Majon Bay with China’s National Surf Team coach, Nik Zanella showing you the ropes. And he’ll even guarantee a 100% successful stand up rate!

For those already confident in their pop-up, North Korea also offers something a little more enticing at a spot called ‘Crystals’ – “the highest quality wave discovered so far in North Korea.” “A shifty, punchy takeoff…followed by an easy second section that leads to a zippy inside…for a total ride of over 70-100m”, well, it certainly sounds better than what’s on offer in Sydney this minute.

Although the MagicSeaweed forecast for the DPRK isn’t exactly enticing right now, so maybe wait it out till their winter.

Maybe wait for a surfcam installation?

Jake McFayden, a Canadian who moved to South Korea to teach English in 2007 is one surfer stinging already for a border hop.

“I don’t think I’ll be sneaking in through any fences to get into North Korea any time soon to surf there, but if it’s possible I’d love to check it out.”

So next time you’re sick of being dropped in by an overly-groomed bearded man at home, you know where to go. You won’t be finding any keep-cup sipping loggers around these parts; Korea’s surf scene appears about as core as it gets. 


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