In Korea a wave pool and startup surf league anchor a fledgling surf scene

Surfing is contagious. Just shy of the 20th century, Hawaiian Royalty gave demonstrations in California while a couple of decades later Duke Kahanamoku wowed crowds in Australia. Both locations immediately embraced the sport and it flourished. Fast forward a century and you can now find groups of like-minded surfing devotees gathered together in boardriders clubs.

But the Duke never gave a surfing demo in Korea. Consequently, the world’s favorite exporter of Pop music (hello BTS!) and hit Netflix shows (hey there Squid Games!) has some boardriders catching up to do. Thanks to wave pools, the country is on an excelerated track to catch up.

Since the addition of Wavegarden’s 56-module beast at Si-Heung Wave Park in South Korea, surf culture is getting a big boost and now playing catch-up with Melbourne by adding contests and a boardriders club.

“That has been a plan for my Dad these last few months,” says 14-year-old Si-Heung Wave Park local Kanoa. “His friends from Australia and California have been giving him ideas and encouragement to do it. Hopefully, we can make our very first club this year.”

It takes more than colored rashies to make a surf club. Here the stoke is palpable. Images courtesy of Kanoa and Si-Heung Wave Park Surf League.

Kanoa lives in a small town called YangYang on South Korea’s northeast coast, a three-hour drive from Si-Heung Wave Park. The grom said he’s just a regular paying customer but reached out to us to share the debut of The Wave Park Surf League contest. The series is one way wave pools are bringing competitive surfing to fledgling surf cultures.

It’s the first event of its kind and will host three categories:
Shortboard Open (Men’s & Women’s division; 30 men, 10 women)
Longboard Open (Men’s & Women’s division; 40 men, 30 women)
Beginner (Men’s & Women’s Division; 40 men; 40 women).

Registration and participation is open to all local residents and foreign surfers who can participate in any one of the five different days/rounds of competition from May until August 7th.

Shortboard Men/Women’s: May 21, 22; July 2, 3, 30.
Longboard Men’s: June 11, 12; July 16, 17; August 6.
Longboard Women’s: June 18, 19; July 23, 24; August 7.
Beginner: June 4, 5; July 9, 10, 31.

Kanoa told us the registration is 120,000 Korean Won per round for Open categories and 80,000 Korean Won for Beginners – about $95.00 US for each day for Open and $63.00 US for Beginners. 

According to the wave pool, Wave Park Surf League (WPSL) is a league-type surfing competition modelled after other surf leagues.

“We want to promote marine sports culture and contribute to the spread of a healthy leisure culture through surfing,” said the league.

More information, check the Wave Park Surf League event website here.