New gen: Jima Kim
Korea may not be at the top of everyone’s surf trip wish list, but surfers like Jina Kim are pioneering the sport in this upand-coming surf destination
Jina, tell us about how you first got into surfing ?
When I was 20 a friend of mine told me about a surf school on the East Coast of Korea, so together with my friends we decided to give surfing a go. To be honest I didn’t even know what surfing was, but I fell in love with it.
What’s it like to be a Korean surfer?
Korea doesn’t actually have the best surf conditions. There aren’t many waves in summer and the winter is too cold for me. Yet there are many passionate Korean surfers who are all thirsty for the waves and surf whenever they can. Even on the flat days lots of surfers will still hit the water just for a paddle. We may not have great waves all the time but at least we have beaches and I am happy with that; although we have the Korean army at every beach on the East Coast, which can make it a little harder to surf in their area.
Are there many other women from Korea who surf?
Korea has a very short surfing history; it’s actually in its first generation now so there really aren’t very many women who surf. As time goes on and more people become interested in surfing, hopefully more women will start surfing and our community will grow.
Where’s your local surf spot?
I started surfing at Gisamoon Point in Yangyang on the East Coast. It’s a river-mouth point and has a breakwater, so it’s a very easy line-up. It’s a small spot but it has good waves.
Did you have to over come any obstacles when learning to surf?
Yes, definitely. When I start surfing five years ago there was only one surf school on the whole East Coast. Luckily for me they are good at teaching surfing, which is why I am able to surf to the level that I do now. Surfing is a very uncommon sport here, which means it’s hard to fight against the army and the police. There was even a law stating that you must wear a life jacket when you surf! They just didn’t – and still don’t – really understand surfing, but luckily they changed the law from having a wear a life jacket, to having to wear a wetsuit. Which is better than it was before, but it also means we have to wear a wetsuit even when it’s really hot in summer!
Thanks to some of the more senior surfers, the laws are changing, making it a little easier to surf, but there are still many strict laws here. For example, on the South Coast you must wear a leash and if you don’t you have to a pay a fine. On the East Coast you have to get out of the surf an hour before sunset and you cannot surf outside restricted zones. This is mainly because the army get very sensitive because of North Korea.
Do you get to travel much?
Yes I do and I love it. I travel to find good waves because
I am always wave hungry in Korea. Since I started surfing I have been to the Philippines for four months every winter and this year I went to Bali for three months to surf and try the competition scene there.
What advice would you give to anyone living in Korea who wants to get into surfing?
You don’t need to find the waves abroad to start surfing. You can learn to surf in Korea because now there are so many surf schools. Get confident in the ocean – many Koreans fear the water but it’s not as dangerous as your think, so just go for it!