Surfing, we all do it, love it, celebrate it, fetishize it and go on and on about it in a way that normal people like to make fun of us when they can. They don’t and won’t really understand why we make it the central figure in our lives.
Seoul is three long hours from the east coast and the swells are brief, so timing is everything in Korea. Surfers agonize over daily reports and the cams to pick the exact right time to make the trip east. Seven-day forecasts tease and toy with our emotions during the week only to vanish at the last second. Epic swells abruptly turn their backs on us and march back out to sea. Seoulites envy the surfers living in the mountains or on the coast who can surf with much less hassle and heartache. Korean Huey is a cruel sort, so if you see a wave best you surf it while its there.
he beach was no different. On the coast, all the unusual aspects of Korean life were there to see. Enchanting scenes of the past and the future, old men working the fields, fisherman drinking and smoking heavily while they fixed nets, young Korean surfers bobbing in the line-up sporting only the latest brands of surf and camp lifestyle like badges of honour. Seoul surfer girls indulging in a popular Korean pastime and are seen sleeping off hangovers in their wetsuits on the beach and anywhere else they can. Restaurant owners proudly present you their signature dishes and gush that a white man could like spicy food or even ask for more of their own homemade Kimchi; in this moment you have made a friend for life. Kind-hearted Ajeossis pose playfully for the camera, even though strapped heavily in a neck brace. As the Soju and fried chicken comes, so do the rowdy times where Koreans finally allow themselves to let their strict moral guard down and drink and smoke heavily. Today’s episode is some of my observations of the kooky après-surf from around 38th beach.
KORDUROY TV: SURFING THE 38TH PARALLEL: PHOTO ESSAY SERIES: 6 PARTS (Published March 2013) PART ONE: Winter: http://www.korduroy.tv/2013/surfing-the-38th-parallel-photo-essay-series-winter/ PART TWO: Soldiers and the Sand: http://www.korduroy.tv/2013/surfing-the-38th-parallel-photo-essay-series-soldiers-and-the-sand/ PART THREE Seoul Surfers: http://www.korduroy.tv/2013/surfing-the-38th-parallel-photo-essay-series-seoul-surfers PART FOUR: Waves http://www.korduroy.tv/2013/surfing-the-38th-parallel-photo-essay-series-waves-get-them-while-you-can PART FIVE: Strange Tales: http://www.korduroy.tv/2013/surfing-the-38th-parallel-photo-essay-series-strange-tales PART SIX: Saying Goodbye: http://www.korduroy.tv/2013/surfing-the-38th-parallel-saying-goodbye-to-south-korea/
Lowering one’s expectations doesn’t always mean a negative attitude; sometimes it protects us from harsh realities. If you surf in Korea, then you must lower your expectations to cope with the bad and to truly appreciate the good. On the 3-hour ride out from Seoul, you constantly argue with yourself, “will I be an optimist or a realist today?” Initially as a makeshift surf fix to break the grind of Seoul, the good surf days remain vivid in my mind because my lowered expectations only amplified the stoke. The surf and culture on the east coast of Korea surprised me and my experiences were in a word, unique
At the Goseong unification observatory looking at the North Korean coast, I fantasize about surfing in North Korea during a typhoon and drinking a delicious North Korean Taedongkang maekju (Taedong River Beer) after an awesome surf on the beautiful east coast. I hope for unification one day because South Korean beer is really terrible!
There is surf everywhere in the world. I know this now, but I didn’t always. Like most wisdoms, it took time and suffering to glean this simple truth. Surf magazines sold me tropical surf real estate, fish-eyed lies and palm-treed dystopias, which I had blindly followed since youth. The surf industry billboard and its editorial bias narrowed my mind over the years as all pornography does, through me working under the assumption that they must know more than I. But one thing our editor’s never told us was where there is wind and sea, there will be waves. This is surfing’s pragmatic truth.