When you think of Korea, surfing isn’t likely the first thing that comes to mind. This was, at least, my impression until I traveled toward the North Eastern coast and discovered the small town of Ingu. While surfing has been popularized along the length of the coast, Ingu has made itself renowned as the hub of the surfing community.
I had heard whispers of surfing in Korea, however my standard Google search proved useless, as there is very little information about this subject on the internet. Even on the Korean tourism website, there was no information to be found. It was through reading blogs that I discovered the whereabouts of Korea’s best kept (outdoor recreational) secret.
Locating Ingu wasn’t easy. The South Korean Government has set strict mapping restrictions for Google Maps, therefore searching for Ingu’s location proved unsuccessful (on a sidebar, this is true for most awesome locations in Korea). I have had much better luck searching for locations on Korea’s very own Naver Maps. Unfortunately this proves difficult without a basic knowledge of Hangul, Korea’s native skript. In our case, a quick search for Ingu (인구리) on Naver Maps pointed us toward a small speck of a town between Sokcho and Yang Yang.
Equipped with a tent and a backpack, with no idea how to actually get to Ingu, we hopped on a bus to Yang Yang, the closest express bus stop from Seoul. Empty dark streets welcomed us in Yang Yang at 1 o’clock am. After a good 10 minutes of contemplation, we approached a taxi driver and asked him to bring us to Ingu. “Surfing?” he asked in Korean. Good. We were on the right track. After all, if the taxi driver knew about the surfing, then it must be worth a visit, right? A 20 dollar cab ride later, we found ourselves in Ingu, and were we ever in for a surprise (fyi there are easier ways than taking a cab to get to Ingu, but I’ll get to this later).
Having already traveled to many rural communities in Korea, I had expected a sleepy little town with maybe a cafe and a restaurant. What we found, instead, was a beach lined with surf shops, beach bars and hip little restaurants. It was almost 2 o’clock am and things were bumping. It turns out that we had coincidentally landed on the weekend of Ingu’s yearly surf competition! The small streets were bustling with people dressed in plaid enjoying some good food, music and drinks.
One of my absolute favorite things about Korea is that you are able to set up a tent pretty much wherever you land, making traveling around the country not only extremely affordable, but also tailored to adventure. Ingu was no exception; the beach was speckled with tents. The smell of fire, Korean barbecue and ocean filled the air. We chose a spot to set up a little ways away from the hub of tents on the soft white sand, and went on to explore the nightlife.
It seemed that Ingu attracted a more alternative crowd. After having talked to several people, I discovered that while many of the people were weekly visitors from the Seoul area wanting to catch some good waves, there was also large portion of young entrepreneurs that had moved to the area to start businesses. Further exploration the following day confirmed this, as many of the buildings had been recently established or were under construction. Some store owners had even chosen to convert C-containers into surf shops, which I found gave the town an artistic flare.
I am a novice surfer and have been surfing here and there. I am by no means an expert. Ingu is a great place for a beginners to rent a board and give it a try. If you are interested in lessons, there is an array of options to choose from. I have also seen videos of the area during which there was a heavier swell. But I think in general, it is a great spot for beginners.
Getting home was much easier. We simply went to the local pharmacy and bought bus tickets to Sokcho (yes, you read that right), where we caught a bus back to Seoul.
I pretty much fell in love with this place. So much that I returned not even a month later with a larger group of people to share the experience. This time, we bused into Sokcho. From the Sokcho Express Bus Terminal, we took a short cab to the Intercity Bus Terminal, where we were able to book a bus to Ingu. Easy peasy.
Being November, it was a tad cooler, which drew in a smaller crowd on the weekend. Because of the larger group of us and the lack of tents, we decided this time to rent out a beachfront trailer for the weekend. It was $100 dollars split between four people, which was very reasonable for the convenience and comfort. Ingu, once again, did not disappoint. We spent our weekend in good company, eating good food and enjoying the surf. Because the town was quieter than our first visit, we had the opportunity to have more chats with the locals.
One man that stuck out was the owner of December Coffee. In my travels, I have found that there is love in every corner of the globe. This man was a testimony to this belief. We were welcomed into his shop with open arms. On the Sunday morning, he insisted on giving us hard boiled eggs and homemade pastries with our coffees, free of charge. He proceeded to tell us about his life. He was a traveler. He believed that in life, first there is love and second there is travel. This really struck a chord with me, as this strongly resonates with my own personal beliefs. He showed us a detailed journal with sketched maps of his journeys across the world. He even brought out his guitar and sang us some traditional Korean songs. Korea’s hospitality continues to amaze me.
Overall, I highly recommend Ingu to anyone travelling through Korea. One of the best things about Ingu is that it isn’t your typical foreigner hot spot, therefore it offers an authentic Korean experience. It really is off the beaten track. An extra bonus is that there are a ton of big dogs to socialize with! If you are a resident of Korea, it offers serenity from the busy city life. It is a place where time slows down, and if you allow it, it will wiggle its way into your heart as it did mine.
Directions to Ingu from Seoul
- Book a bus to Sokcho from the Seoul Express Bus Terminal or any other major bus terminal in Korea.
- You will arrive at the Sokcho Express Bus Terminal. From here, go outside and take a cab to the Intercity Bus Terminal.
- At the Sokcho Intercity Bus Terminal, you can book a bus to Ingu.
Directions from Ingu back to Seoul
- Go to the local pharmacy and book a ticket to Sokcho
- From Sokcho, you can book an Express Bus Terminal back to any major bus terminals in Korea.