Confronting the Kimchi – surfEXPLORE South Korea Maptia

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South Korea is a future-facing, happening nation: the Winter Olympics are coming to Pyeongchang in 2018 and the Tate Modern has just announced it’s largest ever sponsorship deal with South Korean car giant Hyundai. The car firm has also given the Tate Modern the money to buy nine works by one of Asia’s most significant artists of recent years, the South Korean Nam June Paik, who died in 2006. A new wave of South Korean artists are surely on the horizon, and some of them might be surfers. Watch this space.

South Korea is a dazzling example of the exceptional economic achievements of Asia’s Pacific Rim, but a place still more associated with Samsung and taekwondo than waves and reef breaks. The North of the peninsula is frozen in the totalitarian straight jacket of Cold War 1980, but south of the capitalist South in the East China Sea, is a potential Korean surfer’s paradise: Jeju island. Advertised to Korean tourists as ‘Enchanting Jeju’ and ‘Honeymoon Island’, Jeju is located 33 degrees north, fifty miles from the mainland. Jungmon beach on the south facing coast has excellent exposure to hot-water typhoon swells between August and October. We took note, and a surfexplore trip was planned with John Callahan, Emi Cataldi, Hawaiian Randy Rarick and George Fujisawa from Japan.

We arrived to greet an intense rainstorm and a perplexing language barrier. It took a gentle stubbornness, some persuasive smiles, and a whole range of air-wrestling hand gestures to load our mass of boards on to the coach bound for the south coast tourist quarter. Here we found a cheap and charming minbak (guesthouse) in humble Sinsuseong Town, near Jungmon beach…

About Sam Bleakley

I am a freelance writer and professional surfer from Sennen, West Cornwall, in the UK. I specialise in surf exploration projects with renowned surfEXPLORE photographer John Callahan. I have undertaken groundbreaking trips to the likes of Algeria, Liberia, Kenya, Oman, South Korea, Hainan, Palawan and the Maluku Islands. Surf writing has led me to visit sixty countries. My roots, however, remain in Penwith, where I live with my family above Gwenver beach, close to Land's End, the westernmost tip of Britain - next stop Novia Scotia. I have an MA in Geography from Pembroke College, the University of Cambridge, and I am currently researching a part time PhD in Travel Writing with Falmouth University. I am the author of two illustrated surf travel books, Surfing Brilliant Corners and Surfing Tropical Beats (Alison Hodge Publisher, Penzance). I have been a multiple European and British Longboard surfing Champion, and former competitor on the ASP World Longboard Tour. I am widely published and featured in international magazines and newspapers ranging from Resurgence to Action Asia to The Cornishman, and a regular contributor to The Surfer's Path. I have studied and taught travel writing courses and guest lecture on aspects of surfing, travel, writing and geogrphy in further and higher education. I edited The Surfing Tribe: a history of surfing in Britain, and have edited Longboarding supplements and specials for Carve and Wavelength magazines. My first book, Surfing Brilliant Corners, details a decade of extreme global surf travel, illustrated by John Callahan. Surfing, jazz, geography, ecology and cultural studies mix as I journey to Mauritania, locked in political strife, where landmines litter access to some of the best waves on the planet; and Haiti, which captures my heart and makes it race as if falling in love. My second book, Surfing Tropical Beats, follows our surfEXPLORE team on a rollercoaster ride from Haiti to Gabon, through Algeria, India, Vietnam, China and back to Haiti.
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