Coastline is like “northern California”…
Four months ago, it was reported here that North Korea was open for surf tours. If you peeled off $US2400 (plus airfare) you could throw yourself straight into the mouth of what the West rightly, or wrongly, calls a “hermit kingdom”.
But who can speculate about such things?
Maybe chairman Kim Jong-un has a beautiful thing going. Maybe his animal vitality is reflected in a smiling well-fed populace. Maybe there is no famine, no summary executions, no anti-everything narrative. Maybe, by side-stepping globalism and porous borders, the glorious chairman had created…perfection.
The NBA Hall of Famer and former Chicago Bull Dennis Rodman has famously visited North Korea six times. About Kim Jong-un he says: “When he’s around his people, he’s just like anybody else. He jokes and loves playing basketball, table tennis, pool. They love American ’80s music. They do karaoke to it. He has this 13-piece girls band with violins. He gets a mic and they play the whole time. He loves the Doors and Jimi Hendrix. Oldies. When I first went, the live band only played two songs for four hours: the theme songs from Rocky and Dallas.”
Anyway, the eight-day tour (operated by the New Jersey company Uri Tours) went in September and I was curious to examine the results. The Italian surfer, Nik Zanella, who is also the current coach of the Chinese national surf team, led the tour.
Potential for surf? Yes?
“There is potential in the DPRK for world-class pointbreaks, especially during typhoon swells,” he says. “Google Earth shows astonishing images of actual waves breaking on perfect setups. While we didn’t have full access to the coastline, the setup we had on Majon Bay was as good as a single location could be along that coast. The bay faces straight east and receives swell from over a 90 degrees angle, SE to ENE. The beach break activates also with minimal swells. When it gets bigger, there is a clean pointbreak just under the cliff.”
The coastline, he says, “looked like Northern California, deep bays of golden sand, interrupted by ferrous cliffs. I was surprised by the overall beauty of the place.”
Were the people kind, nice, fearful, terrorised? “Traveling to North Korea was an eye opening trip for me,” says Zanella. “People were beyond nice and we were treated with respect and curiosity. I found that Koreans are hard working smart and have a sense of humor.”
Why would you go there? The German entrepreneur Markos Kern, one of the heads behind surf tours to North Korea, says, “North Korea is the last white spot on the map and there are many amazing experiences to be had there. The country is beautiful and the people you meet possess a rare type of curiosity and kindness. Unconventional travel destinations always hold a certain amount of magic and I think trips like these may be the last few off the beaten path adventures we can really have.”
Yeah, this does all read like propaganda, don’t it.
So why not visit! See with eyes!