Surfing Jeju Island: a pre-actual surfing survey

Not my photo, from the interwebs. If it was that big I would have surfed it on whatever I coud find!

On the weekend I went to Jeju Island, off the coast of South Korea. It was trip to meet a Professor from Jeju International University about doing research with fishing communities there.

I scouted about a little, even though I did not have my boards with me. I came across many lava reef set-ups. Mt Hellansan, the UNESCO listed volcano at the centre of the island, has poured lava into the ocean to produce some good lineups.

The island picks up swell, from the south during Summer and Autumn and from the north during Winter (although, the water gets mighty cold – near freezing – so you would have to seriously suit up). Albeit, conditions are fickle. Again it is one of those places where you have to be on it at the drop of a hat (2 day swells normally). A planned surf trip would not be worthwhile (you would have to be soooo lucky).

Most people surf around Jungmun beach but there were a plethora of other spots.

The swell was tiny, but I saw the potential for strikes. It is only a 40-minute flight from Shanghai. There’s a good piece on surfing Jeju here by Hugh MacDonald, with images.

I will keep a sharp eye on the weather maps, and take a decent camera next time.

Otherwise, the Koreans were great to hang out with, although most are scared of the sea. The local authorities don’t like people going into the sea, especially when a typhoon is nearby. That said, I got to visit the Haenyeo (sea woman).  These diving women still gather seafood for their communities. The work is difficult and cold. The numbers of the Haenyao are decreasing every year, as the daughters who would take their mother’s roles go to other work in the cities. The Haenyao dive all year (even in winter), and without assistance of weights or ropes to ascend or descend. They make as many as 30 dives an hour, to depths from 10 to 30 meters, at temperatures in the winter as low as 10 C.

All images are via my crappy IPhone 3

This stretch of coast was loaded with set-ups. Offshore in the prevailing wind and picked up whatever swell was on offer.

There was a sure-fire right-hander at the base of this other volcano on the coast.

A small beachbreak on offer

The left at Jungmun Beach