Category Archives: Sporty things

Freediving update/feedback

I spent March in the Philippines improving my freediving and I’m happy to say that despite some sinus issues early on and a cold in somewhere in the middle, I am now certified as SSI Level 2 Instructor.

A few tips on preparing for your course:

– choose a center that makes time for your course, after all, you’re paying a lot of money to learn how to be a better freediver and teacher.

– you can PRE-pare for your course: start a training plan a month before your course that includes CO2 tables, diaphragm/ thoracic stretching and swim training (if you don’t have access to a pool-based freediving club). The “Apnea Tables” app is very useful, as is Natalia Molchanova’s blog about pool training and deconcentration. If your mouthfill or Frenzel are a bit sketchy, read up about the Frenzel-Fattah technique and practice some dry exercises. Try and get your hands on Federico Mana’s Equalization for Freediving (ISBN 9788887376913 – not available as an e-book on amazon unfortunately). Mana also has a YouTube channel with some dry exercises- amazing party tricks to amuse your friends with… If you’re practicing static, watch this video– not for the breathhold as such but for the great coaching- the guy says some good things about contractions that are worth remembering in your own sessions.

– acquire spares and learn how to change your D4i battery before you go away. Always carry a spare and the correct tools to open the computer. It’s pretty easy to do- and it will save you around 200USD- just make sure you test the seal in fresh water before you dive with it and look for bubbles (like you would with a camera housing).

Once you start your course it’s worth remembering that:

– freefall technique is as important as mouthfill & duckdiving. Identify your problem areas early and work on them separately- ask your instructor to dive down with you and critique your style if they’re not already doing this.

– everyone progresses at a different pace. If you compare yourself to others you may end up doing yourself a disservice. If you have an off day, forgive yourself and learn from the experience. Every session, even a shit one, has value.  Putting excessive pressure on yourself will only have a negative effect on your diving.

– be kind to yourself: take a day off every 5 days and do something totally removed from freediving. A rest day can make a huge difference in performance. Make sure that you keep your thoughts positive and try and keep the vibe light around the buoy. I had some days where I had great sessions despite getting only a few hours’ sleep. Why? Because I was very happy!

– put your computer away some times and just feel. Sometimes the alarms and obsession with depth really just get in the way of the pure enjoyment of being one with the ocean.

– get your head right. Freediving is as much mental as it is physical. One of the exercises people fear is the 5x20m. It’s good to start by doing a 5x15m and building on that. It’s OK to fail the first few times since your body gets stronger every time you practice. For me, the first 3 dives are easy and 4 is the hardest mentally with 5 being easier cos you know it’s the last one. Tips for 5×20: fin slowly, there’s no rush- you don’t have to fin from 10m upwards anyway so just chill. Take a few deep recovery breaths, a long exhale and start your  yogic breathing to slow your heart rate down. From 20s onwards you can start your last breaths- I only needed two to get to 20m and back. Remember, you may get contractions on the way down on #4 and 5 but it’s not because you’re low on O2, just high in CO2. You can do it, it just doesn’t feel that great 😉 When I got around to doing the full 5x20m I no longer felt any lactic in my legs so I’m glad I progessed the skill.

– train without the freediving school. Go to Moalboal, find the people who own their own buoys and ropes and go dive with them. For free. For fun. For the beauty of comraderie and your shared love of our oceans.

Additional links:

Handsfree EQ (BTV)

Freediving training February!

I’m in my final month in Korea and I’ve just started prep for the next step in my freediving journey. I’m aiming to become an instructor in March so I have to get back to my August form so that everything will be easy.

While I was stuck on a gondola ride at High 1, I came across this amazing video about Frenzel and equalization. I don’t really have an issue with Frenzel. My main problem is swallowing my air so I’d like to nip that annoying habit in the bud within the 1st few days of training in Cebu.

Since my two main goals for instructors will be to dive to 40m and achieve a static apnea time of 4:00 minutes, I decided to attend a very special templestay in Korea.  I needed a temple that puts a strong emphasis on meditation.

Golgulsa Temple is situated in Gyeongju, about 34km from Pohang.  “Golgulsa” literally means “Stone Buddha Temple” and it’s home to a 4m large Buddha carved into Mt. Hamwol, sometime between the 7th and 9th century.

Golgulsa is also famous for a form of martial art that was originally practised only by monks. Sunmudo means ““the way of doing meditative martial arts”.  It’s a unique combination of meditation, yoga and martial art. You can read more about the fascinating history of Sunmudo here.

I arrived on Saturday and had 3 meditation practices under the belt by the time I left the following day. I found it very helpful to have a refresher on what to focus on when meditating. Essentially, breathing and relaxation are intrinsically linked. It’s about acknowledging a distracting thought but letting it pass through as you return to breath. I also found moving meditation a really enjoyable activity. I’m hoping to use meditation and yoga not only for getting a good breathe-up but also to help me deal with contractions better. My training mantra is “contractions are your friend”. I hope that if I repeat this enough I’ll actually start believing it instead of being distracted by the discomfort.

Trying out Sunmudo is part of the templestay experience and it’s amazing how exercises that only use balance and bodyweight can cause such high lactic acid levels in your muscles! I thought I was relatively fit but I guess the training session targeted muscles that are not used too much in cycling and snowboarding. Two days later and I’m still stiff hahaha!

I met grand master Jeog Un Sunim during Sunday’s tea ceremony and I had a question for him (which has nothing to do with martial art, meditation or freediving). I noticed there was a statue of a Jindo dog next to a small, fat-bellied smiling Buddha on the temple grounds. When I asked him about it, he told me that he had a dog for 20 years and that she was like a daughter to him. After her death 5 years ago, he decided to honour her memory by erecting the statue on the temple grounds. She lives in through her daughter, who was happily snoring away in a corner while we were doing our 5AM meditation session.

There’s a lot we can learn from Buddhism and apply to freediving. Other than mediation and knowing the importance of breath and living mindfully (living in the now), it also teaches us not to attach to anything (other than the line of course. ALWAYS be attached to the line). Don’t attach to failure, don’t attach to nerves or negative feelings. Acknowledge that failure is part of the learning and growing process. Be aware of your body and your breath. Be aware of how your thoughts are impacting your training and performance. Be aware of where you tense up when you start stressing or when you feel discomfort (for me it’s my neck). Be grateful for your health and the beauty of the ocean.

By knowing yourself you can strive beyond your limits. This takes time, training and patience. I’d say the end result is worth it though 🙂

* You can find other useful articles about freediving here.

 

 

 

High 1 Ski Resort

I love winter in Korea! I finally got round to using my season pass for High 1 last week. I’ve blogged about snowboarding in Korea before but I’d like to re-iterate what an amazing deal you get with a season pass.

If you’re new to the game, start with these 2 steps: join Snowboard and Ski South Korea  and Korea-snow.com. This way, you will be notified when season passes become available on the internet – usually around September, after Chuseok. There are two rounds of season pass registrations, one in September and again in November. There is a slight price hike if you go with November.

What’s so great about a season pass? The price. I paid 238,000 won for a season pass that covers me from December to March- lift pass AND return bus shuttle from Pohang to High 1 Resort included. I don’t think you can get this deal at this price anywhere else in the world. I have my own gear now but if you have to rent a board and boots it works out to 30,000 won per day (from 08:30 to 16:00). NOTE: the season pass IS more expensive for guys… around 352,000 won I believe. Tour operators such as Enjoy Korea and Waegook Travel usually charge the price of a season pass for a weekend’s worth of snowy fun.

I highly recommend NOT going over the weekend. If you have a season pass, go during the week so that you can enjoy the non-existent queues, wide open spaces and uncrowded slopes. Weekends are just crazy busy- you’re looking at 20-30 minute queues to get on the ski lift. No thanks.

This past weekend High 1 held a Snow Festival, which included a Snow Tubing Festival. Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) offered bloggers the opportunity to attend the Festival and stay at High 1 CC Hotel. I’ve only ever visited High 1 during winter but during the summer months it’s actually known for being a Country Club! Playing golf country club style is a pretty exclusive activity since space comes at such a high premium in this mountainous country. Koreans love golf and screen golf and netted driving ranges are incredibly popular.

High 1 CC Hotel’s facilities include a sauna, conference rooms, restaurants and a golf equipment shop. There is also a casino nearby, the  only one that is actually accessible to Koreans and foreigners (it’s illegal for Koreans to gamble).

My room was spacious, comfortable and tastefully decorated and offered an exquisite view of the mountains. We were treated to a delicious buffet and a post-dinner show by Sachoom! Sachoom’s dance performance is funny, energetic and covers a range of styles from B-Boy to K-pop to ballet.

I didn’t have time to try out the sauna, but once I got back down to Valley Ski House and saw the carnage of Saturday crowds, I decided to try out the jimjjilbang Sauna instead. Located between the Valley Ski House and Valley Condominium, a soak, scrub and steam will cost you 7,000 won. If you choose to have the whole jimjjilbang experience (sleeping there) it will cost 10,000 won.

You can also swim at Mountain Plaza, use the outdoor sauna (you need to wear a swimsuit), play pool, sing at Rush norebang or play arcade games!

Bottom line, you don’t have to be bored at High 1! I’m really going to miss winters in Korea. Shout out to KTO for hooking us up with the good stuff!

 

 

101 List and 4 Rivers update

Just over a year ago, I wrote my “101” list:  the 101 things I’d like to do in the next 3 years. So far, I’ve been able to scratch 33 tasks from my list and this weekend I’ll complete #34. This is a biggy for me: completing the 4 Rivers Trail.

I completed the Geumgang on the first day of November, setting myself a new PB:  189km  in just over 12 hours.

I started in Gunsan, ended in Daejeon and I found the signage to be a bit crap in places so I’d suggest doing it the other way around (like the book advises). It was a one-day affair for me: mostly flat and easy but long.

I bussed into Gunsan from Pohang late on a Friday night, slept very soundly in  a motel behind the station (the bed was doubly inviting thanks to the electric blanket). I paid 50,000 won for the room, but I knew that the next day would be a long one so I allowed myself this little extravagance. After all, it had a bath tub and I scored 2 new toothbrushes for my bike cleaning kit! I was going to wake up at 6AM but it was so dark and snugly that I slept in until 8.

Riding along an estuary during autumn is pretty spectacular, with all the ducks practicing their winter flight formations. I saw hundreds of birds that morning. I met a Korean rider along the way who was finishing his last river. After we reached his final stamp booth, we posed for some photos and commemorated the occasion with a quick CU coffee and some Oreos.

He asked me if I wasn’t afraid of cycling alone. Lots of people have asked me this and yeah, if I were in another country, I wouldn’t cycle solo. I feel so safe in Korea. I feel extremely comfortable riding as a solo female in the dark, in the middle of nowhere and being lost. I have always found the Koreans I’ve met on my travels to be trustworthy, honest and helpful, despite my basic Hangul-skillz.

Soon after leaving the cyclist behind (at Iksanseongdangpogu Certification Center) I got horribly lost. I was following mile markers along the river when the path just stopped. I guess I crossed the river too early… I made a low-sugar decision to go by road until I found the next stamp booth… this lead to a stressful ride on a narrow road full of traffic and roadworks. There’s nothing more frustrating than watching the day fall away around you as you try to find your bearings. I was pretty relieved when I finally made it to Gongju-si. If I had more time I would have stopped for a look round, since there’s loads of cool history here.

As light gave way to dark I put my head down and the rest of my ride was pretty uneventful if misty. I had to cycle past  a slew of restaurants on the way to Daecheong Dam: torture to a cold, tired, hungry cyclist and at the same time, the promise of rest and warm, soothing Korean food makes you peddle just that little bit faster. I swear there’s nothing better than any jigae, rice and beer after a long ride.

Tomorrow’s ride will be on a tight budget: it’s the weekend before pay day. I’m pretty psyched to know that I am so close to achieving my goal. Cycling Korea has been one of the best things I’ve ever done.

What’s next? SNOWBOARDING SEASON!!!

P.S: My MP3 speaker is great- it lasted the whole way!

Cycling from Pohang to Gyeongju (40km/ 2 hours)

On Hangeul Day, a public holiday in Korea, I finally made time to cycle from Pohang to Gyeongju. The bus journey between the 2 cities takes 30-40 minutes and the straightest line (on highway 7) makes it just over 30km. But I’m not looking for straight lines. I’m looking for curves that will swoop around beautiful stretches of farm land, small villages, rivers and streams.

The first time I did the ride I had the good fortune to be stopped by a farmer who was having a barbeque with his family and friends. I met his family, horses, dogs and cows and sampled some really tender beef! It was a random but great encounter, just another example of the extreme generosity and kindness you will come across in this country.

The route back was slightly less auspicious as I left Gyeongju a bit late and got horribly lost on the small country roads. It took me 4 hours to get home, double the time it should have taken! It was a beautiful night ride though, the night after the lunar eclipse: huge moon, clear skies… you could even see some stars. The silence of the sleepy countryside was intermittently interrupted by the sound of a stream or river nearby. It would have been true bliss had I not been so lost.

I was determined to try the route again since it’s a nice easy ride that’s easy on the eye. I made a pig’s ear of  the route on the way there so I’m only going to post my return route (Gyeongju-Pohang).

Most of the route will be on quiet concrete country roads/ nice bike paths, maybe 55%, about 5% on road, 15% gravel and 15% side walk/ shitty bike paths. I did the ride on my road bike, which handled the gravel sections fine but beware of uneven surfaces just before leaving Pohang and when you’re cycling in Gyeongju (next to the main road – there are some truly awful bits that can give you a snakebite if you’re not on the look-out). Obviously it’s common sense to take a spare tube, patching kit and a pump with you.

Some cool restaurants  near the Express Bus Terminal in Gyeongju include:

– Hawa Dhaba 하와다바 (Indian food) – google 하와다바 HawaDhaba 경상북도 경주시황오동 108-2

– Kong Story  꽁스토리 (Falafels)- opposite the Express Bus Terminal. OMG so good.

– NeCoZzang 네코짱 (Japanese Ramen)- also very near the Express Bus Terminal.

Here’s my route on Strava: http://www.strava.com/activities/209040367/embed/dbbd52f4072d70d513c188145f42f5158175d1b1

My Pohang start/ end point is Posco bridge, since it’s a well-known landmark. My Gyeongju start/ end point is very near the Express Bus Terminal. Where you can see loops it signifies going off-route so just go straight (none of the detours are huge though, should they occur). If you are starting from Pohang, you will need to cross the road when you see the huge retail park between Pohang and Gyeongju, otherwise you’ll be cycling against highway  traffic coming around a corner. Do-able but not safe at all.

Cycling Jeju

My friend Pieter and I are trying to complete all the routes in our KTO cross country passport before winter kicks in and before we leave Korea next year. We have a few small river routes to complete but we just added Jeju to our list of DONE. Once we’ve completed all our rides we’ll qualify for the “Grand Slam” certificate and medal. Put that way it sounds a bit lame. We’re not doing it for the medals 😉  Using the cycle passport is hands down the best, most organized way to see Korea during your time here. It has only enriched the Korean experience for me and I feel I have gained a deeper understanding and love for the country as a result.

Getting to Jeju

You can fly or take a ferry. If you fly you should box up your bike (get one from your local bike shop). Since we were planning this ride for Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) flights and ferry spaces were thin on the ground and expensive. Enter “Enjoy Korea” and their super affordable Chuseok 4 day weekender. Stacey Kim is American- Korean and she runs Enjoy Korea with the perfect blend of professionalism and partying. She is the missing link between Western and Korean culture and she makes tour planning seem effortless. I’ve used all 4 of the main Tour Groups for foreigners in Korea (Adventure Korea, Waegook Travel, WiNK and Enjoy Korea) and Stacey wins hands down.

You can take a ferry from Busan or Mokpo but the Busan ferry takes 12 hours (overnight) whereas Mokpo can take from 2 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours (depending on the company you use).Our journey started from Mokpo and took around 4 hours. Load your bike into the cargo hold before joining the queue to board the ferry. If you’re not piggy-backing onto a pre-existing package tour it’s worth thinking about your way back since buses and trains tend to be booked out on public holidays like Chuseok.

The Cycle route

Once you’re on the island the cycling route is pretty straightforward. The terrain is mostly flat and most of the roads have a separate lane for cyclists. It was only in Jeju City  lacked a decent cycle lane/ sidewalk option for road bikes. I definitely felt uncomfortable and I’d say I’m a fairly experienced cyclist. We cycled anti-clockwise but usually most people go clockwise due to the winds (we didn’t know this). We were cycling into headwind most of the time but luckily it wasn’t strong.

The route is 234km long and has 9 stops for stamps. Heads up: there are no red stamp booths like the rest of the 4 Rivers Trail. This is still a work in progress for the KTO at the time of writing so you have to take photos in front of the stops as proof instead. You can easily circumnavigate Jeju in 2 days and see some extra sights along the way. We started both days at 07:30 and finished at 18:30 with a few stops and 1 hour lunch breaks.

We added two stops to our route: Jusangjeollidae (lava column-shaped cliffs) and the Haenyeo Museum (traditional Korean female freedivers). If you have time you can also add Cheonjiyeon and Jeongbang waterfalls to your list. Jusangjeollidae and the waterfalls are all in the Seogwipo area. The Haenyeo Museum is located in Gujwa, between Seongsan (the lava crater) and Gimnyeong.

The best

Gimnyeon. Make time to stop and swim here. I’ve seen many beaches in my life but  this ranks as one of my top 3 with its white sands and azure waters.

Jusangjeollidae: not on the map but it should be.

Seongsan:  Try to start day 2 here because the sunrise is definitely worth it.

The worst

Sarabong, Yong Du Am and Turtle Lighthouse

– Sarabong is great for sunset apparently but it’s not good for much else. It’s awkward to find and I didn’t enjoy riding there.If you want a beach sunset, go to Hyeopjae beach instead.

– Yong Du Am. Korean for Tourist Trap. Cue 100 buses and 10000 tourists vying to take photos of a rock. Local government needs to make the cycle route to this destination safer.

– Turtle Lighthouse. Ahhh, Turtle Lighthouse the bain of my life. The mysterious landmark that not even Tourist Information in Seogwipo could tell us the location of. So mysterious that not even the people in the surrounding area knew its name. Not located by googling No sign boards.  So you’re thinking “How hard can it be? It’s a lighthouse for  fuck’s sake!!” but actually there are many faux lighthouses and harbours along this part of the coast. From Jeju City,  with the sea on your right, keep to the coastal road, ride past a UFO shaped cafe and a harbour with entrance lights shaped like llamas/ dragons/ horse (one red and 1 white llama shaped building). Apparently they are called the Iho Hang Breakwaters. Anyway, it’s soon after that – keep your eyes out because you won’t be right next to the coast, but you can see it from the main road so just turn off and go through some tiny village roads until you hit the small harbour. The dark turtle is sandwiched between the base of the white building and tower. It would have been cute if it hadn’t been such a pain in the ass to find. After 2 hours of internet searching, I found that “Cheon nyeon hak” was filmed here and on this version of the Jeju map (which is not the same as the one in most Jeju Tourist Info centres) it shows the location as “Turtle Lighthouse (filming spot Cheonnyeon Hak)”- B2.

Roadworks

At the time of writing there was some major roadworks between Jocheon and the Jeju Folklore Museum. We rode a closed, half-built, empty, beautiful 4 lane highway as far as we could but then had to go back onto the 1132 which was also down to 1 lane being shared between cyclists and cars. Be very careful in this section, especially the part because it’s very messy. There is a very cool temple in this area called the Buddha Sharira Stupa for World Peace and Unification (평화통일불사리탑) and you can see the 1132 and the new road under construction (and where it stops).

Notes

– If you have time, try to cycle on the coastal “shore” road instead of the 1132. The 1132 is very efficient but mostly pretty dull and ugly.

– All tourist attractions have a minimal entry fee so take cash with you.

– Make sure you don’t over-pack and definitely take time sink your teeth into some juicy Jeju tangerines along the way.

– Signage for the Haenyeo Museum is pretty sparse so when you see the sign get ready to turn!

– There are plenty accommodation options. We paid 50,000 won to stay at a minbak opposite the beach with a great view of Seongsan.

– Great cheesy pizza and calzone to be found in Sinyang-ri.

– You have to eat black pig while you’re in Jeju. Unless you’re a vegetarian, in which case you must visit The Loving Hut in Jeju City or Jungmun area.

Other things to do in Jeju other than cycle

– Scuba dive: you can dive the lava tubes around Seonsan. Big Blue is one of the dive shops operated by English speakers, based in Seogwipo.

– SUP, windsurf and kiteboard. Zooty Club near Seongsan.

– Drink and play like a kid going down slides, climbing up poles, drinking buckets containing generous shots. A night you’ll remember because of the craziness at Monkey Beach in Seogwipo.

Loveland: strange if you’ve never been to a sex museum, mediocre if you’ve been to the one in Gyeongju.

– Jeju Museum of Art: located next to Loveland, 1000 won entry, highly recommended. I saw a great exhibition of works by Park Woo-sung, Victor Cho and Wee Young-il.

 

 

Freediving in the Philippines

I recently came back from spending two weeks with Freedive HQ on Mactan,Cebu, the Philippines.

Freedive HQ is owned by Mike Wells, who basically shaped the SSI freediving programme along with Lotta Erikson, Linda Paganelli (from Freedive Dahab/ Freedive International) and a few other big names in the industry. There are currently 2 female instructors who are the deepest un-official record holders for their respective countries: China and Korea. Miya hails from Korea and is currently training to reach 58m+. Sura Dai, from China, has dived to 54m and no doubt she’ll be breaking that soon enough… when she takes a break from teaching all of us newbies!

I started off with some in-water training- call it a refresher if you like. I was worried that I’d forgotten loads during my 4 year hiatus.  I did forget some things: I had to re-learn Frenzel and my freefall was a bit rubbish to begin with.On my first day I found myself thinking “This is crazy. What are you doing?” as I did my free immersion to 10m. Luckily it didn’t take long for my inner dolphin to wake up! FIM is so zen- I love hanging at the 15m bottom plate looking at the jellyfish pulsating by.

It was so good to be back in the water and I got back to 29m after 1 week. Now the hard work started.

Learning mouth fill, FRC and Frenzel is challenging. But I like challenges so it’s OK. The hardest thing with mouthfill/ Frenzel is to master glottis control and NOT swallow your air. We got loads on on-land exercises to do but underwater it’s just a case of trial and error until your body and mind get to the same understanding.

Our instructor, Sura Dai, is Chinese but her English is perfect. She is such an awesome instructor: funny, calm, patient. She also has an amazing collection of toys! We tested our lung capacity as well as our oxygen usage/ heart rate during dry apnea. I couldn’t believe that in 1:40 minutes I’d only used 21% of my body’s O2 and that my heart rate could drop to 39BPM so easily. That’s the mammalian dive reflex for you! One of the guys in my group managed to get down to 50% O2 before he inhaled. Amazing- he counted around 20 contractions. I didn’t push myself as hard as I should have because I don’t enjoy dry contractions. Underwater they feel like hiccups to me but on land I still struggle with them. This will be a major focus to the next part of my training.

I had 3 other guys in my group and we had such a great dynamic- we really motivated each other and you could see that in our results. I also witnessed a couple of LMCs and BOs for the first time ever- a lot less dramatic than I imagined them to be but it’s still weird to see someone go blank. Especially before you have to do a PB attempt. It’s SO important to control your thoughts, emotions and reactions and stay on the positive side of things. I saw that Robin Williams had died, but refused to let the idea swirl inside my head. Nothing bad was allowed to stay in there. Only good memories, good vibes and good tunes. It’s also vital for you to take the right amount of time for your breathe-up and increase your performance slowly. If you do 3 30m+ dives in a session you’re probably pushing yourself a bit too much, although it’s all up to the individual. What you don’t want is to keep on getting LMC/ BO and your body to get used to that as an acceptable response to breath-hold.

I ended up diving to 33.3m and if I had more time I think I would have gone deeper.

Sadly, we all have to go up to the surface, dry off and go home at some point. I surpassed my goal depth of 30m, completed SSI Level 3 and am ready to go back next year for a month for the next step. Meanwhile, I have to find a training pool in Pohang that will let me do dynamic and static…

Freediving in Korea:

There are clubs scattered across Korea, with my nearest one being in Daegu. Busan Scuba is currently gearing up to launch AFIA training (AFIA= Korea’s freediving association). Kevin Mitchell is based in Seoul and runs 1upfreediving. Most Koreans spearfish and don’t just purely freedive. Also, sea restrictions are a bit OTT here so expect most of your freediving to be pool based (great for pre-trip training). At the moment freediving is not hugely accessible to foreigners here but let’s see if I can change that a little bit before I leave! The terminology has mostly been borrowed from English so once you get a foot in the door the rest should come easy.

Links:

AIFA

AIDA

SSI

Freedive HQ’s blog

Sura’s blog (Chinese)

Miya’s blog (Korean)

One Breath (Korea)

Korea Freediving Team (Korea- NOT the national team or anything, that’s just their name)

Kevin Mitchell’s (AIDA instructor/ judge) blog on freediving in Korea

Annelie Pompe’s blog

***Featured image’s rights belong to Freedive HQ***

 

Why Freediving?

Freediving in DahabI grew up around the sea and swimming pools, I grew up being tumbled around in the big washing machine waves of the South African coastline. My dad once had to jump into the swimming pool at a BBQ,- sunglasses and cigarette in mouth- to get me from where I was hanging out at the bottom. My early experiences could have put me off water, but somehow it didn’t. Instead, I sported a permanent tan and sun bleached chlorine-green head. I swam for my school and competed against my brother to see who could swim the most lengths underwater.

I was still scared of what lay beyond the breakers though, until my 21st birthday. I was on the beach in Jeffrey’s Bay with my family when we saw the resident dolphin pod making their way along the coast, right across the path of the swimming area! I ran into the water and swam out to where the lifeguards were floating just past the breakers- I felt safe with them there. I could hear the clicking dolphin sounds above water as they swam within a arm’s length of us. It was beautiful.

I couldn’t afford to join the scuba club at university but once I moved to London it finally became possible to save up for my first dive trip. Fast forward a couple of years and I was a dive instructor, travelling the world and teaching people about the wonders of the sea. The more I learnt about the ocean the less I was afraid. On quiet days it was standard to play those familiar breath-holding pool games with the dive staff in Sodwana or dive to the bottom of the buoy line in Fiji. In South Africa I was always surrounded by guys who spearfished but killing fish didn’t interest me at all. I remember watching a young guy freediving down to 28m, hovering there for a while, taking aim at a fish and shooting. I was impressed by the beauty and grace of his dive as well as his obvious athletic ability!

After leaving the dive industry I found myself watching Guillaume Nery’s classic YouTube video at work one day. That was the moment I decided to learn freediving properly. I booked an AIDA 2* course with Freedive Dahab, Egypt and ended up doing my 3* as well.

Why freediving? Why is scuba diving not enough? To me, freediving combines the tranquillity of scuba with the athleticism required to do well in sport. Freediving is meditation, freediving is living in the moment: calm, slow, relaxed yet focused. To me, freediving is the ultimate personal meditation experience: it’s only you, your body and your mind. Training your mind to silence negative thoughts, training your body to adhere to its inner mammalian reflex. Freediving is letting go of fear and doubt and replacing them with trust and inner peace. It leaves you on a high.

In 2010 I reached 29m. Four years later I returned to the sport with a new goal: 30m and beyond.

Ice skating in Pohang

I’ve just come back from a morning of ice skating with my school. Pohang’s ice rink (포항아이스링크) is located in Jansangdong- click here for the map. Prices can be found on the 2nd tab at the top (아이스링크), 요금안내: 입장료= skates and대화료(헬멧)= helmet hire.  If you have a group of 30+ you can get a discount. If you want to play ice hockey join the Ulsan, Busan, Daegu, Pohang Ice Hockey  facebook group.

6th Annual Mayor’s Cup surfing Championship (Busan)

I’m back from a great weekend in Busan.

I was disappointed that we didn’t have waves on Saturday but the event as a whole was pretty fun! It’s worth bearing in mind that the surf comp and indeed the sport itself is still relatively new in Korea so there’s lots of room for improvement.

When the judges saw that the day was getting on and conditions were not going to improve before the beach closes at 6PM, they decided to have board paddle races to select the winners instead. Before the event started, all the surfers formed a big circle in the water to pay respect to the victims of the Sewol Ferry Tragedy.

I met Brett Burcher, who won the 2009 Red Bull Juniors in Cronulla, Australia. He’s studying to become a teacher and is extremely down to earth. I think that if  he could combine surfing and teaching like Skateistan has done with education/ skateboards he could really be a force for good! Check out Toby Cregan’s surf short, Carpark Stories , featuring Brett riding some shweet waves.

The youngest surfer at the competition was Kai Kim, who, at the age of 2, has more sponsors than she can shake a stick at: Spider surfboards (from Durban, South Africa), Ocean and Earth, Carver Skateboards and Gwangali Surf School. What she lacks in height she makes up for in cuteness! All her sponsors products are available in Korea here.

5 reasons to enter next year’s competition

1. Swag: You get a cool goody bag. This year’s swag included a Billabong cap, surf wax and event t-shirt (and the comp rule book).

2. More swag: There are lots of spot give-aways during the day that you don’t find in every day Korea: trendy sunglasses, big towels, surfwear etc.

3. Free Red Bull!

4. Prizes: If there are waves, you could win a prize. Prizes range from goody bags to 1.5 million won for guys and 1 million won for girls. If there are no waves, you can paddle and still win a prize. Or not, like me… I came 4th out of 4. Sad face.

5. The afterparty. The best fucking party I’ve been to in Korea. The music, the vibe, the all you can drink for 10,000 won… Is there anything hotter than a party with sexy, sweaty surfer boys and girls?!

6. Bonus reason: Mel Vin gave anyone who was interested a SUP intro lesson . I really enjoyed it – great for developing your balance.

 5 reasons not to bother:

1. There may not be waves so if you’re a purist this might annoy you. Your back up plan should involve improving your paddling and wrestling skills.

2. You feel pretty clueless as a foreigner as there is hardly any English support.

3. The Korean competition has many divisions:  junior, longboard, beginner and open. As a foreigner you can ONLY compete in the International Open. This means that whether you’re a beginner or intermediate, you will be competing against surfers from Japan and Korea who are experienced and who regularly compete on an amateur level.  You could still beat them in a paddling match, if you run into the water for as far as you can instead of paddling straight away!

4. If you live in Korea you know that the plan can change at a moment’s notice. The surf comp was no different. My event was supposed to be at the end of the day but they suddenly gave us 5 minutes to get ready. In fact, 2 girls missed out on competing because no one called them to let them know about the schedule change… That’s a bit crap since we’d been on the beach from 8AM that morning.

5. You’ll need a Korean friend to help you enter since the KSA website is only in Korean but that’s a lame excuse not to go!

I’m definitely entering next year’s competition and it would be great if we had more foreigners. I know that loads of Saffas, Aussies, Kiwis, Brits and Yanks surf back home so the level of competition could be so much higher if everyone gets involved! I really think sport has been my favourite way of bonding with Koreans.

GET ON IT!