Go to contents

The Charm Of The Touring Kayak

Posted June. 22, 2007 03:23,   


Riding A man-powered boat-

“Yahoo!” was the cry, as a small wave drew closer to the beach. With its crew gripping their paddles in both hands, the long, thin boat kept its balance as it floated atop the waves. As the kayak that had surged forward with the wave began to slow down, the cries also subsided. Another kayak flipped over. The kayaker struggled desperately, using his body to turn the boat back into an upright position while stuck upside down in the water.

On the morning of June 16 at Yonghwa Beach (Samcheok City, Gangwon Province), on the eastern coast of Korea, there was not a cloud in the sky. In order to enjoy the blue sky, jade green sea and cool breeze, people had ventured there from all across the country the night before. Around ten members of the Korea Touring Kayak Club (KTKC) hold a regular meeting once a month in which they come together to enjoy themselves. When people think of kayaking, the first image that springs to mind is a kayaker darting about in swift currents, but the sport that KTKC members enjoy is touring kayaking. Compared to swift current kayaks, touring kayaks are thinner and longer boats which are designed to travel through the sea and along rivers. They are designed similarly to the traditional kayaks used by the Eskimos to travel on water or hunt. Starting from the southern or western coasts, they get into their kayaks and head out in search of islands. For instance, they paddle for three hours by kayak to reach Bijin Island which is 12km from Tongyeong. Park Eui-yong (42) who founded KTKC last August said, “The charm (of touring kayaking) is that the trip is not power-driven by a motor but is done using only one’s physical strength.” There are currently 250 members in the club.

Touring kayak’s merits-

“On an autumn evening with a beautiful sunset, I was gliding on top of Lake Soyang which was as smooth as a mirror. The only thing in sight was the colorful autumn leaves glowing in the red sunset, and the only thing that could be heard was the sound of the kayak slicing through the water.” This is a memory which Park Young-seok (49) holds within his heart. Park, who manages Songkang Canoe School, participates as a general member of KTKC for the pure enjoyment of kayaking. Touring kayaking is not widely known; it has only been one year since this club’s inception, and there are also many members who have signed up very recently. Kang Ho (33), who was concentrating on practicing getting an overturned kayak back into place said, “I haven’t been a member for all that long, but the trip that I made to Bijin Island with the club members is what I remember the most.” His wife, who is also a kayaker, visited the sea although she is nine months pregnant. If swift current kayaking offers pleasure through momentary surges of power and thrills, then the appeal of touring kayaking comes from the challenge of setting out to discover new places.

Yoon Myung-ho (46) who fell in love with touring kayaking while he was in the United States for a year, said, “Think about it. How you would feel after paddling out to an island in the middle of a river, eating lunch and coming back. Being able to go to a place that you wish to visit, using nothing but your own power; isn’t it great?” When sitting in a kayak, there is no great distance between ‘I’ and the sea. When holding a paddle, the rocking of the waves can be felt through the one’s bottom and legs. One wonders if being out a long distance from land would not be fearsome and dangerous. But Park Young-seok explains, “That is the source of enjoyment and amusement. Needless to say, safety measures are taken into account. If you are hit by a wave from the side, you can be capsized, so it is a basic measure to go with several people when heading out to sea.”

Setting out for freedom-

For touring kayakers, the southern coast is a treasure chest. This is because there are few places in the world where more than 2500 islands are gathered along about 400km of coastline. When the club members hold their meetings on the southern or western coasts, they set out to explore near-by islands. Island residents, digging for shellfish on the foreshore, are often surprised when they hear that the kayak team came from the mainland. This is because they think that only motor boats could cross such vast stretches of ocean.

The other merit that kayaking holds is that it is possible to also enjoy fishing, scuba diving and camping on an uninhabited island, all on the same trip. There is space within the kayak to store camping gear and provisions. The members usually combine kayaking and camping. In order to freely wander about the places that they wish to go, such a lifestyle follows along naturally. The ultimate goal of KTKC members is to cross the national border on a kayak. They have singled out Tsushima Island in Japan for their first port of call abroad.