Korea has a relatively short surfing history. Since the very first surf club on Jeju Island in 1995, the first generation of Korean surfers have appeared on Seongjeong Beach in Busan where you can enjoy consistent beautiful waves all year round.
For almost 19 years, surfing remained a unique pastime enjoyed by a few, but that changed in 2014 when young people wanted to snag ten. Today the sport has grown in popularity with the coasts of the peninsula inundated with young people on boards in search of the next wave.
So where is the best surfing destination in South Korea? Jukdo Beach in Yangyang, Gwanwon-do is emerging as an attractive surf spot for surfers. The beaches of Busan and Jeju Island are also great places to surf, but these two hot spots can be very time consuming for someone who lives in the Gyeonggi-do area in west-central. Korea. For those who live in this area, Mallipo Beach in Taean, South Chungcheong Province is a great place to get away from it all and enjoy the waves.
When you think of California, you might think of surfing. When I think of surfing in Korea, I think of Mallipo beach. The waves are so good here and the surf conditions are often compared to California.
The combination of a three kilometer long coastline and warm currents has earned Mallipo the right to be known as “Mallifornia”. I went to this promising beach to put on a wetsuit and try to catch a wave.
MLP Surf Shop
Choosing the right surf school or store can be tricky, especially if you are not a native Korean speaker. After doing some research online, I found five stores along the Mallipo Beach strip. I chose MLP Surf Shop because it is just 300 yards from the main drag and it is the oldest shop in the area.
Lee Hyoung-Ju, the owner and qualified instructor, learned to surf in 1999 while riding the waves at Manly Beach in Sydney. Lee started learning to surf as part of a language course, and with the help of a Japanese friend who was a semi-professional surfer, he made his way into a full-fledged surfer.
With the opening of Lee’s surf shop in 2013, the first seed of Mallifornia’s surf industry was planted. The business first served as a resting place for surfers, but now Lee’s hobby is creating and running a surf culture in this neighborhood.
The shop offers several types of surf lessons for beginners and intermediates. The group surf lesson I took is the most popular because it seems like a great way to have family and friends try out together. Also, if you are nervous, know that all MLP Surf Shop instructors are certified by the International Surfing Association (ISA) and are very experienced surfers.
If you are not a beginner or intermediate surfer, the shop offers an advanced course for those who want to surf independently and improve basic techniques for paddling, catching waves and standing.
MLP has everything you need to ride the waves. It provides storage service for those who plan to travel frequently or for those who need a space to stow their board. With a dining room that serves good quality food and drink daily and a futsal pitch, it’s also perfect for those who want to do more than just surf. In addition, MLP offers skateboards, clothing, surfboards, and a wide selection of short boards.
My first surfing experience?
Although this is actually my second surfing experience, it was my first in Korea. Two years ago, I tried my first surf at Shonan Beach in Japan. The most memorable part of the experience wasn’t the surf lesson, nor the thrill of catching the first wave. It is the sense of accomplishment that I have overcome the fear of the ocean that I had since I was young.
Some experienced surfers were probably disappointed with the quality of the waves on my day at Mallipo, but the slow waves were perfect for me. The group lesson that joined me was similar to the one I had in Japan. I jumped into the water after completing a quick basic workout that included paddling and taking off.
It wasn’t until I tried to catch my first wave at Mallipo that I realized that everything I had learned about this beach in Japan two years ago was gone. Here I fell and drank a ton of salt water almost immediately. Ji-Hwan Kim, my instructor, quickly noticed that the position of my feet was not correct and I tried again.
After much trial and error, I’ve learned that getting up at the right time is as crucial as having a good position on the board. Finally, I understood and was able to stand up many times while maintaining my balance.
On the way back I saw photos taken while riding the waves. I looked silly, but I was really proud of my ability to catch a wave! My surfing journey will not end there. I always plan to improve my position and my surfing skills. If you want to take your surfing to the next level, stop by this surf shop. Don’t worry about the language barrier, you can book your English surf session by phone!
MLP Surf Shop
• Surf lessons including rental of complete equipment (wetsuit, board, lockers and showers) (duration 1h30)
- Beginner course: 1 session for the day rate 50,000 won / 2 session for the day rate 130,000 won / 3 session for the day rate 20,000 won
- Refresher course: 5 sessions for the daily rate 130,000 won / 10 sessions for the daily rate 600,000 won
- Private lesson: The store offers personalized one-to-one lessons which means you can talk together about the pace and level of instruction. 150,000 won
■ Class times: 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m. * Classes may be canceled in the event of bad weather. * Participants must be over 7 years old.
- Rent: Rental of surfboards Soft-top surfboards: 25,000 won / day; Epoxy / PU surfboards / SUP board: 40,000 won / day; Rental of wetsuits, including use of shower 15,000 won / day
- Storage of the personal card: 1-year contract: 400,000 won, + 20,000 won for 1 additional pension / 6-month contract: 300,000 won / 1-month contract: 100,000 won
* What to bring: sunscreen, towel, extra clothes, slippers (to prevent the sand from burning your feet)
Address: 충남 태안군 소원면 만리포 2 길 172 (KOR), 172, Mallipo 2-gil, Sowon-myeon, Taean-gun, Chungcheongnam-do (ENG), NAVER MAP
Call: 0507-1305-5199, 010-4785-5199
Hours: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Open all year)
E-mail: [email protected]
Top notch burger at Mallipo beach
When traveling to the beach in Korea, the food options are mostly sashimi and grilled clam restaurants. If you are looking for something more familiar, it will be a bit difficult to find restaurants near the beach that serve other types of food. However, Mallipo is home to a great place to grab a hearty meal after a morning surfing: Insaeng Burger.
You’ll find this must-try burger restaurant just a 10-minute drive from the MLP Surf Shop and the beach. They have a few parking spaces and there is also free parking in the neighborhood if these are full.
Inside, the attached burger has classic posters and fun paintings on the wall, creating a laid back and relaxed vibe. I ordered the 2×2 burger set that included a soft drink and fries for 15,000 won (or $ 13.41) The “2×2” was literally double. Both thick patties were seared on the outside but still juicy on the inside, topped with perfect portions of sticky American and Swiss cheeses.
The burger and fries were really satisfying. And the dazzling view of the ocean from the window seat was a bonus!
* Please note, this burger restaurant is only open from Thursday to Sunday.
- Address: 충남 태안군 소원면 파도 길 63-6 (KOR), 63-6, Pado-gil, Sowon-myeon, Taean-gun, Chungcheongnam-do (ENG) NAVER CARD NAVER CARD
- Hours: (Closed on Mon, Tue and Wed)
Thursday, Friday 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Weekend at 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (break from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.)