Photographer/Surfer

The Inertia

I was born in New Zealand, but I currently live in Seoul, South Korea and work as a university lecturer and a surfer. I have been working on a photo essay about surfing culture on the 38th Parallel – the demarcation line of latitude drawn up after the Korean war – on the East Coast for about two years.

I have photographed Korean and foreign surfers who have established this area as a legitimate surfing community and who now share the coastline in one of the most dangerous places on earth: the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) dividing North and South Korea.

The community has grown rapidly amongst the local fishing community and the ever-present ROK (Republic of Korea) defense force who have vigilantly protected South Korea from the distant threat of a North Korean attack and rogue defectors since the 1950s.

38th Parallel Beach or ‘sahm-parl’ (“3 & 8” in Korean) is a beach, harbor, military base, and a highway rest stop. Weary travelers can stop for strong, sweet coffee, spicy food, and tacky souvenirs. They can also inspect and enjoy the rare beauty of the Gangwando coastline.

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South Korea has caught the surf bug badly. 38th Parallel Beach has fast become a hub for Seoul’s young jet-setting surfer class. A three-hour drive from Seoul through scenic Gangwando brings you to the barbed-wire bay. On any given day, you will see trendies, hotties, gangsters, Hongdae hipsters, Gangnam DJs, and foreign English teachers all jostling for a wave.

The East Coast of Korea has some of the most consistent and powerful waves in the country. With ever-improving forecasting technology, modern social media, and South Korean connectivity, the short-lived swells which originate in the East Sea are no longer left unsurfed.

As a lifelong surfer, the mixture of this semi-remote location, exotic culture, and the three distinct groups all occupying the same area is incredible to me. I tried to spend as much time as I could out there getting my surf fix and capturing the amazing and strange things I saw at this wonderful South Korean beach.

All photos are taken at 38th Beach, Gisamun Harbor, Gangwando, South Korea.



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