Employee of the month May 2023: Jina Kim of Wave Park
Jina Kim has watched the South Korean surfing scene explode. In the past 10 years, it went from a handful of expats and coastal rule breakers to a full-on government-recognised sport. Throughout all the evolution Jina has been there, adapting, evolving, and riding waves, and charting a professional surf career in a country without any professional surfers. Challenging? Yes. Boring? Never. The lively regularfoot from Daejeon City in the middle of Korea, has become the face of Wave Park in South Korea. There she created the surf lesson curriculum and trains the instructors. She’s a coach’s coach.
During WavePoolMag’s visit to Wave Park South Korea, we had the opportunity to chat with May 2023’s Employee of the Month, Jina Kim.
Tell us about what it is you do here at Wave Park.
I do everything that makes Wave Park a more fun and safe facility to help ensure that when people visit Wave Park, they can learn how to surf easily and return home with a new, amazing experience. This includes making surf lesson curricula and training instructors and lifeguards. And also testing the waves, making surf events and even cleaning the pool on occasion.
What type of coaching do most people need here?
We have a lot of options in wave types to suit all levels, from beginners to advanced surfers.We have gentle foamy waves for first-timers, which is the biggest part of our lessons, and we have a little green wave for the novice surfer who wants to practice and we also have video coaching for advanced surfers who want to improve their maneuvers and fix their posture.
Wave Park has been open for a while now. What has changed?
Well, I can see the Korean surfer’s level has improved a lot. There are not many good waves to practice on in Korea, but now we have Wave Park. I’m sure that people have improved because they can keep practicing on the same wave whenever they want to at Wave Park. Also, Siheung city has changed too. It was only mud flats and factories before Wave Park opened in 2020. But now, there are hotels, a marina, and restaurants, the commercial area is developing, making this city more like a marine and leisure area like the Gold Coast.
Which is more popular, short boarding or longboarding at Wave Park?
I was surprised that short boarders are most of our customers. There were a lot of longboarders in the ocean line-ups because most of days the waves aren’t good enough for shortboarding. But after Wave Park opened, a lot of people are enjoying short boarding. I even started to do it!
I know you get to surf after work. Tell us what those sessions are like.
We have staff sessions after work and we practice surfing but we also train the reef guides and surf instructors at the same time. We choose different wave settings. Sometimes M1, and M2 for the beginner staff, and sometimes we set barrels for the advanced coaches. We test almost all types of waves and think about how we can set the surf sessions most efficiently for customers.
Being so close to a large city, is Wave Park a different kind of surf trip than, say, the beach?
Generally, city people go to the beach for a few days, but here people come and surf for a couple of hours and then head right back home.
What is your favorite wave setting at Wave Park?
M4 and T1. It has a vertical section with enough power for noseriding. It’s hard to find the sweet spot for noseriding in small waves like M2, and I think T2 is too fast and risky for a longboard.
How has the Korean surfing scene changed?
It’s interesting, we don’t have as many customers when there is a good swell in the ocean. And we get busy when it’s flat in the ocean. So I think Wave Park has become a very special surf spot here in Korea.