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

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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!

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