BUSAN, South Korea -Imagine wake boarding without the boat and instead being dragged across the water at high speeds by a huge kite. The relatively new sport of kiteboarding is the ultimate extreme – involving whatever skills you managed to learn either snowboarding, sailing or surfing.
Absent the roar of a 350 HP outboard motor 75 feet ahead of you and just the sound of the wind whipping across your ears, it is not surprising that it has even caught on over here in Korea. On the weekends, you can see dozens of kites pulling wetsuit-clad kiteboarders from 5 to 85 year olds across Dadaepo beach, at the mouth of the Nakdong River.
Kiteboarding in Korea actually goes back to the 1990’s, when a few expats got it started. The locals were amazed with what they saw, and it slowly caught on. At first, the sport was extremely expensive and incredibly dangerous. It was very difficult for the Korean newcomers, not having any type of instruction or guidebook. Eventually, they got the hang of it and the rest is history.
Only a few of the pioneer kiteboarders still actively kite in Korea. The majority of the local kiteboarders have only been participating in the sport for the last five years. The sport has grown to about 150–200 people, and roughly about 40 of those live around Busan. Currently, Busan has only two IKO (International Kiteboarding Organization) instructors, of the roughly ten instructors in the entire country.
Kiteboarding is a seasonal sport and dependent on wind conditions. At Dadaepo beach, the season stretches from October to June and you can experience the best and most reliable wind during the spring. Although Busan winters can get cold, with a good wet suit, the temperature is more than bearable.
Dadaepo beach is one of the best places to learn kiteboarding in the world. There is wide swath of sandy banks and the water is the perfect depth for learning. Since tourism in Korea is not as popular as other countries, the amount of kiteboarders is usually limited to only the locals – typically, you can see around thirty kiteboarders in Busan, whereas Boracay in the Philippines attracts over 200 on a good day.
The local kiteboarders I met are a great group of people and are very accepting of new riders. The hospitality I received was amazing and I was able to make a lot of great friends. “The kiteboarders at Dadaepo beach are more than happy to see kiteboarders from all over the world. We encourage everyone to give the sport a try,” said local Dong-nam Ryu.
Another local rider, Seong Kang added, “It’s almost a waste that so many people live next to one of the greatest kite beaches in the world, and so few people know about it.”
One downside is that kiteboarding is a sport with a high start-up cost, but after the initial cost, it’s free. In North America and Europe, 20 hours of lessons will normally run you around $1000, but in Korea, 20 hours of lessons which will get you up and riding on your own, costs only $600. Lessons are taught one on one and include equipment rental. If this seems overwhelming at first, there is an introductory teaser course for $120.
The kiteboarding instructor I recommend most is Dong-nam Ryu. He has a long history in kiteboarding and has taught many foreigners. He is the only English-speaking instructor in Busan as well. Dong-nam is also a dealer for kiteboard equipment company Naish and North, so he is your connection for everything you need.
If you are interested in kiteboarding, there are several places in Korea where you can partake:
– Han river in Seoul
– Pyeongtaek-ho in Asan bay
– Sihwa-ho in Kyeong ki-do
– East coast cities such as Kangnyeong, Donghae and Pohang
– Jeju Island
– Dadaepo Beach
Wanna know more? Conact Ryu Dong-nam at: