UPDATED: The Korea Times has a good picture of a group of surfers from the competition. In the back row, right side is Heidi (last name held back), a friend and coworker at many of Minjok High school’s summer and winter camps. I just don’t know what so many many of them are giving the ‘call me’ hand sign for.
The weather was more appropriate for sipping hot drinks inside than being in the ocean, but I persevered. The surfers didn’t persevere; they all had wetsuits, the cheaters.
I ended up wearing a ‘rashie’ or rashguard shirt to trick the lifeguards into thinking I belonged. The surfboard in my arms wasn’t enough to convince them I was a surfer. If they had seen me out on the water, they would have known I wasn’t.
Melvin’s tent could have looked like this.
…except he didn’t have a banner. We both owe a great deal to OceanEarth, a surfing company in Busan who shared their tent with Melvin and his crew (there is a photo of their tent somewhere below).
I arrived at 10:00am to pretty good weather.
Another friend, Dusty, had also been forbidden entry until he found a rashie to blend in.
Soon, visibility dropped to around a hundred metres.
Melvin makes paddling on a surfboard look easy, but I didn’t manage to stand for more than three seconds on Saturday. Oh, this time it is I in the borrowed pink rashie. On Sunday, the ocean was much calmer – perfect for me but not so much for a surfing comp -and I stood for much longer.
Mel not only paddles his way around, but actually surfs. That’s impressive to me, but perhaps not to people in the sport.
A friend on Facebook, who probably wouldn’t mind my quoting him here, had this to say about Sunday’s waves:
Sunday brought glassy, clean, overhead waves. Yet, only in Korea would a surf contest be cancelled by the “water” police because of a typhoon that “we” all knew was coming. How does this help Korean surfers? The higher-ups need to get the acts together. This is embarrassing.
Added even later:
Korean lifeguards and Coast Guard personnel have prevented me from swimming more than once. If the conditions aren’t as safe as they can be, aquatics officials don’t want you to risk it. On the one hand, I am a great swimmer, even now one of the world’s best, and feel I, and anyone, should be able to judge the risks for themselves. I saw pictures of the waves on Sunday and I would feel comfortable swimming in them – excited even; they looked great!
On the other hand, I don’t carry special “great swimmer” ID and the nations aquatic rescue teams were pretty darn busy on Sunday…
A rescue official in South Korea’s eastern province of Gangwon was killed during a search-and-rescue operation for a missing toddler, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said.
A student presumed to be 15 years old was found dead after being washed away in rapid torrents in Chungju, 147 kilometers southeast of Seoul, according to the local anti-disaster agency.
And the Joongang:
Powerful Typhoon Meari drenched most of Korea yesterday with strong winds and torrential rain, killing two rescue workers and collapsing a bridge. Four people also were reported missing.
According to the National Emergency Management Agency, a rescuer in Sangju, North Gyeongsang, died while trying to save an 80-year-old farmer swept away by a flooding stream near his rice paddy. Another rescue worker searching for a 3-year-old swept into a nearby river in Yeongwol, Gangwon, also apparently drowned. The farmer and the child are still missing.
A 20-year-old man in Songgye Valley, Jecheon, North Chungcheong, and a 14-year-old middle school student in Cheongju were also missing after being caught in floodwaters.
My great sympathy to the family that lost their child and my great admiration to the selfless rescue workers who risked and lost their lives trying to help.
I still think that in general people should be allowed greater freedom to swim in Korea but perhaps they were overwhelmed with work on Sunday and their decision to close even a surfing competition that needed big waves because of the big waves was reasonable.