Employee of the Month: Let’s hit South Korea’s wave Park with Jina Kim

One of the great things about wave pools is that they level the playing field in terms of which corners of the world have good surf. South Korea is not the Gold Coast of Australia in terms of wave quality. But Wave Park’s giant Cove wave pool ensures consistent sizzling surf in an area that relies on the rare wind swell and rarer typhoon.

There are core surf communities scattered across the country’s three surf-able coastlines. In the east, the hotspot is YangYang which faces into the Sea of Japan. You’ll need a 5mil, hood and gloves to surf there in winter, but the transition seasons are warm and still receive swell. The south coast is warmer with nearby Jeju Island being the crown jewel to the area. The west coast has a small fetch and gets the odd swell, but it’s Wave Park, the world’s largest Cove design that provides the best, most consistent surf on this side of the peninsula.

Jina Kim is a South Korean longboarder and surf coach at Wave Park. She’s a bit of an influencer as well attracting adoring fans through instructional advice, travel clips and bikini hauls on her YouTube channel while her art, stretching advice and general celebrations of life have earned a big following on the JinaSurf Instagram account.

Jina Kima instructing and chilling at wave park South Korea, her local spot
Jina Kim instructing students and chilling at Wave Park South Korea.

What is your local wave pool?
My local wave pool is Wavepark in Siheung Korea. I work here as the main surf coach. I do some advanced lessons and also train the coaches here.

What is your surfing background?
It’s been 10 years since I started surfing. When I started surfing, most Koreans didn’t know what surfing was. So there was only me and a few surfers in the line-up. We had lots of fun and I got addicted to the vibe. But now surfing in Korea is getting more and more popular, so lots of surfers in the line-up. I miss empty line-ups sometimes, but I also like to see more people having fun and enjoying surfing. During summer holidays I moved to YangYang on the east coast to surf all day, and during winter holidays I go on surf trips abroad to avoid freezing weather.

Jina Kim surfing at Wave Park
As an employee Jina gets to session each day after work. She can also be seen bobbing in the lineup on her days off.

What are the waves like in the ocean near you and what’s your local spot?
My local spot in the ocean is YangYang, east-coast. It was a very small town but surfers started to move there because the waves are good. so It became like a surftown in Korea. It’s a 2-3hr drive from Seoul. The waves are really good in autumn (Sep-Nov). But in the summer season, it’s usually small or flat except for the odd typhoon swell. In summer, I recommend the south-coast or Jeju Island.

How many wave pool sessions a month on average do you do?
We do have a 1hr staff-session every weekday after work. Which is the best benefit to working here. and I surf around 3 sessions on my days off.

What is the best thing about your wave pool spot?
The best thing is of course the wave quality and size. Wavepark has the biggest Cove in the world. Which means you can surf longer, and the quality is epic. Barrels and Aerial waves for shortboarders, and also peeling waves perfect for long noserides for the longboarders. We heat the water temps up to 20 (70 Fahrenheit) in the snowy winter season! So you can surf without boots or gloves and a thick wetsuit in winter. I even surfed with my bikini on Christmas last year. The steaming waves in winter were an insane experience in my life.

Jina started surfing a decade ago and says the Korean surf scene explode in the last 10 years.

What is the worst thing about your wave pool spot?
There is no time for rest. Like sitting on the board and feeling the sunshine and breeze while waiting for the waves. I personally like that chill time when I surf. But in the pool, you surf endlessly…. you have no time to relax during your session. I’m not sure if this is the worst thing though.

Share with us something most people don’t know about your local wave pool
The first wave is perfectly clean, and the 2nd or 3rd wave is more powerful. The sections get more and more challenging. So If you want to practice your noseriding, it’s better to go on the first wave. If you want to practice a floater or any finishing maneuver, it’s better to go on the last wave.

Biggest piece of insider advice you can give to someone about visiting your local wave pool?
If it’s your first time in a wave pool, I recommend you try to catch waves further away from the wall until you get comfortable in the artificial waves. It feels like a perfect real nature wave when you ride, but it’s very different to catch. The waves are not coming from far outside, it just comes up from behind you. So you need time to get used to it, even if you’re a professional surfer. I see a lot of people paddle too close to the wall. If you wipeout or nosedive there, your board will get dinged for sure. no one wants to break their board on the concrete wall!