With Gwangju still rocking in the wake of the Universiade 2015 and with a hot and humid August ahead of us, this summer is the season to try your hand at a new sporting hobby that is often overlooked by us city dwellers.
Before you say “it is far too hot to move” and sink back into the comfort of your air-conditioned apartment, you should know that this sport is about as cool and refreshing as they come, and an exhilarating adrenaline rush that will rouse you from that summer siesta in a second. To do this, all you need is a small plastic boat, some open water, and a sense of adventure: welcome to the world of kayaking.
In a city of high-rise buildings and beautifully maintained local parks, it is easy to forget that there is a sprawling wilderness out there. Hop on a bus, however, and you will be quickly reminded that Korea has some astounding areas of untouched natural beauty that are perfect for kayaking and other water sports.
Hidden in the gullies of Gangwon-do, Inje is heralded as one of the best kayaking spots in Korea, and well worth the journey for those seeking out a river adventure. The Naerincheon stream, with its mixture of rough, choppy rapids interspersed with smooth gentle currents, hosts over a million water sports enthusiasts every year – from the absolute beginner to the kayaking pro. Tour companies frequently organize expeditions to this site and offer fun, no-pressure rafting and kayaking trips in groups, in addition to other adrenaline-fuelled activities for the brave-hearted among us. Simon, a tour participant, shared his experience of kayaking in Inje for the first time: “We were on the water for a few hours, and the instructors were really helpful for the first-timers. We went with a group of mixed experienced levels and had a great time – I can’t wait to go again next year.”
For rapids a little closer to home, meet Kang Ho, head instructor of Jirisan Kayak School since 2012. Located just a stone’s throw from the slopes of Jirisan, Korea’s oldest and biggest national park, the school is a two hour journey from Gwangju. Owner, founder and head instructor, Kang Ho, is the definition of a pro kayaker: with 10 years of experience behind him, and an average of 100 days per year on the water, his school is a labor of love. “When I go kayaking I feel truly alive,” said Kang Ho, “I find self-growth through adventure.”
When asked why he started a kayaking school, Kang Ho explained, “I wanted to share this feeling with others. I want to help other people experience their own adventures and, in doing so, find themselves and find purpose.”
His advice for kayaking newcomers? “Just do it. Every outdoor sport requires courage and a sense of adventure, so just get out there and give it a go. The only way to truly know something is to experience it firsthand. Now is the time to open your door and start your journey. Without adventures we don’t experience real life.”
Jirisan Kayak School offers programs for differing levels, from beginner to advanced. By the end of the course, Kang Ho assures that you will notice your kayaking skills improve, step by step. The school also offers customized training programs based on customer request – so if you don’t see something for you, just ask. “Our instructors will safely guide you through the beautiful rivers of Jirisan”, says Kang Ho. “Before you know it, you will love kayaking as much as I do.”