When my friends and I rolled into Yangyang around 9 p.m. on Tuesday night, the cool sea air was almost as shocking to our city-girl systems as the dark and deserted streets. We stepped off our bus from Seoul and searched for our guesthouse among the storefronts — all closed for the night.
I guess we won’t be getting any dinner tonight, I thought.
“It is only nine, right?” we double-checked our phones for the time.
We finally located our guesthouse, but there were no signs of life there either.
“Hello?” we called. “Is anybody there?”
Rounding the corner, we spotted two employees. One was sound asleep, reclined in a massage chair. The other was lying beside him on the couch, sleeping with a magazine over his face.
“Hiiiiii,” we tried again. Magazine Guy stirred and began smacking Massage Chair guy to wake up and help us.
So, Yangyang seems pretty chill, I concluded as he drowsily checked us into our room.
The convenience stores were still open, though, so we bought some beers to enjoy at the wooden tables near the beach. We sat and talked for a few hours before something strange happened.
People started rolling by on skateboards and bikes. The taco stand next door flipped on its lights and opened its doors. A loud group of friends sat down outside of the bar down the road.
I finally understood. Yangyang wasn’t dead — it was just having its siesta before the late-night party started.
The next morning, Yangyang was even more exciting. There are more than 20 surf shops in the small area offering rentals and lessons, and the beach was full of instructors teaching their students the proper techniques.
Everyone enthusiastically spoke about the waves in Yangyang — perfect for surfing, they said. The water is cold but not unbearable, and the beach popular but not too crowded.
Yangyang is such a cool, fully-developed surfer town, it’s hard to believe it hasn’t always been like this. Surfing is not something typically associated with South Korea, and the sport has been gaining popularity only in the past few years.
Busan’s Haeundae Beach is famously crowded in the warmer months, and there aren’t many surfable waves along the Korean coastlines. Yangyang is a hidden treasure for surf enthusiasts in South Korea.
Yangyang residents are often dressed in wet suits or casual, beach clothes (ponchos, board shorts, etc.). Many of them even sport long hair and tattoos.
Walking around Yangyang, it’s easy to forget that you’re not actually in Southern California. Until you see the little old ladies hanging up their laundry, or taste the fresh kimchi (delicious!).
A trail beside Jukdo Beach leads up a mountain where we found gorgeous plants, a spectacular view of the city, and a breathtaking Buddhist temple.