Sailors compete in the Korea Cup International Yacht Race, an annual event that kicks off in Uljin County, North Gyeongsang. Provided by Uljin County Office
BUSAN AND ULJIN COUNTY, North Gyeongsang - As summer vacation approaches, many are busy looking for ways to escape the heat for at least a few days. For those who enjoy exciting activities, Korea"s southern coastal regions provide many different opportunities to try water sports. Instead of just sitting on a yacht, you can actually learn how to sail. And don"t just watch those professional windsurfers - try it for yourself.Major coastal city Busan and Uljin County in North Gyeongsang, the host of Korea"s own international yacht competition, are offering a variety of programs to promote the destinations for water sports. So if just lying on the beach all day isn"t your cup of tea, read on to find out how to have an adventure this summer.Learn to work the windWindsurfing is readily available at coastal areas in Korea, including Busan. One would think it"s hard to stay balanced on the board, especially on the first try. However, the design of the windsurfing board, different from a regular surfboard, makes it easy to stand up on the water. Once you find your balance, then it"s time to catch the wind. Even first-timers can pick up the skill on the first day of training.An instructor accompanies trainees in the shallow waters near the beach, and then leads the group out into deeper water later for unhindered sailing experience, away from the crowd of novice sailors, surfers and swimmers near the beach. After about three or four hours of working the sail, you might be exhausted. Then you can switch to a kayak to spend some more time relaxing in the water.If you want to get a good picture of yourself trying out a new sport, try windsurfing at Gwangalli Beach. If your friend stands on the beach with a camera, you can get a photo of yourself on the windsurfing board in front of the Gwanga Bridge, the second-longest bridge in Korea. Gwangalli Ocean Leports Center, located near the beach, offers training classes for windsurfing, waterskiing and wakeboarding. A one-day training session is 70,000 won ($61.75) including gear rental, and just renting the suit and the windsurfing board costs 40,000 won. You can get a 20 percent discount if you have more than 20 people in your group. For more information, call (051) 755-0707. Enjoy the sea with easeIf you want a thrilling experience but doubt your own skills, have a go at water rides. The recently introduced jet boats are rising in popularity in Korea, especially after being featured on TV entertainment shows.
Uljin County offers a variety of water sports including windsurfing, left, and scuba diving, right. Beginner divers can take a training course at Uljin Ocean Leports Center, which has a five-meter-deep pool (16-meter-deep). The Bay 101 in Busan offers rides on a jet boat, center, which can perform 360-degree spins in the water. Provided by Uljin County Office, The Bay 101, Jeon Eun-seon
The rides, which last about 30 minutes, are offered at the Bay 101 in Busan. You need only to jump in the back of the boat, and the driver will turn up the dance music and speed off into the deep waters of the bay, while you enjoy the breeze and the beats. After cruising around for awhile, the driver will take you along Haeundae Beach, where you"ll make all the beachgoers jealous with your flashy ride. The driver will throw in some 360-degree spins to add to the excitement.A jet boat ride costs 48,000 won. For more fun, you can also try riding on a banana boat or a peanut boat, which are inflatable rafts pulled by a speedboat. For more information, go to www.blue-marine.co.kr.After dark, there are sill more ways to relax on the water by taking a yacht trip or an overnight cruise. A 40-person yacht operated by Samju Diamond Bay leaves Yongho Bay at 7:30 p.m. and 8 p.m., in time for sunset. Or you can opt to take a cruise by Panstar for an overnight experience watching the nightscape of Busan. The cruise ship only operates on Saturday nights. The two companies are offering discounts as part of the Busan Tourism Organization"s summer campaign "Let"s Go To Busan This Summer", to boost the city"s tourism after the recent outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome. For more information about the sunset yacht ride, go to www.diamondbay.co.kr, and for the overnight cruise, go to www.panstar.co.kr. For more about the discounts go to www.bto.or.kr. Explore beneath the wavesAfter spending time at the beach or on the water, you may start to be curious about what"s below the surface. It"s time to don a wet suit and oxygen tank and dive beneath the waves. Korea may not be as well-known for scuba diving compared to tropical countries that have warm waters year-round. However, as long as you have the proper equipment to keep yourself warm, you can easily experience this sport and venture into the deep. The Uljin Ocean Leports Center has Korea"s largest training center for water sports. It features a pool that is 5 meters (16 feet) deep in which beginning divers can train before heading out to sea. The center offers a variety of diving programs including ones that offer just a one-time diving experience, and others for those who are pursuing diving certificates. A one-time diving session in the indoor pool only costs 60,000 won, and the one that includes an ocean diving experience costs 120,000 won. A training program to obtain an open-water certificate, the basic license needed for ocean diving, takes five days to complete. It costs 400,000 won. As many programs require multiple days of training, the center also offers lodging service. If you"re a more experienced diver who already has a certification and wants to go directly to the ocean without additional training, you can contact local dive shops to plan a diving session. Moor Haejeo is one of the dive shops that arranges a boat trip out to sea and rental for all necessary gear. The water temperature is slowly going up as the weather gets hotter, but it generally stays below 20 degrees Celsius. A diver from Moor Haejeo who assisted this reporter in the water on Tuesday said the water temperature at 15 meters deep was around 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit), higher than he expected. Still, he recommended wearing a heat vest inside even the thickest 5-millimeter suit.
Kayakers prepare for a trip out to sea at the Busan Yachting Center located near Marine City in Busan. By Yang Seo-young
The visibility underwater was also decent, so this reporter could see lots of sea urchins in the spaces between big rocks, abalones, clusters of flowy seaweed and schools of colorful fish. The dive instructor pointed out various interesting things to see. And since he wears a recording device while leading a group dive, divers can come back to land and replay the video to look again at the marine creatures they saw underwater. For more information about the programs offered at Uljin Ocean Leports Center, call (054) 781-5115 or go to www.uljinleports.co.kr. Learn to sail a yachtIf you have already experienced cruising on a yacht, why not try driving it yourself and take your friends for a ride? Uljin County, which has hosted the Korea Cup International Yacht Race since 2008, has been working to make the area Korea"s central for yachting. The Uljin Yacht School, located at Hupo Harbor where the international race kicks off in the spring, offers courses to teach people to sail. After a 40-hour, five-day course that costs 500,000 won, you will be ready to take the license test. After passing the test, you will be ready to take your friends out for a spin on a rented yacht. The school does not yet administer the test, so you must take it at another institution.If you are lucky, you can see professional sailors or windsurfers out riding the wind, offering plenty of chances for scenic photos.You could even take a yacht out at dusk to watch the sunset, and get a view of Uljin from the water. Kayaking, paddle boating, snorkeling and rafting are also available at Uljin Yacht School. The school offers a package that includes all five activities for 30,000 won per person. It takes about five hours to try them all. For more information, call (054) 788-4771 or go to www.uljinyacht.com.
BY LEE SUN-MIN [[email protected]]