PYONGYANG, North Korea – Here's a new take on gnarly.
A pro surfer who coaches the Chinese National Surf Team and a tourism agency based in New Jersey plan a surfing expedition and training camp in North Korea, which has pristine beaches, virgin waves and, they say, the potential to become an international wave-riding destination.
Nik Zanella, a native of Italy who along with coaching Chinese surfers is a representative of the International Surfing Association, said the decision to hold the surfing camp for a small group of North Koreans and foreign tourists along North Korea's east coast follows a year of studying the area to assess wave and weather conditions.
"The DPRK will not become the next Malibu, but it receives enough swells to sustain a vast surf community," he told AP in an email Tuesday, referring to North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. "Our goal is to evaluate the resources and make them available to local surfers in a sustainable and safe way. We are not there to simply go surf, brag about it and then bail."
The expedition, scheduled for September, has been approved by the North Korean government, which is eager to boost its small but developing tourism sector.
Andrea Lee, CEO of Uri Tours, which is organizing the excursion, said it will be used to map out the coastline for prime surfing locations, take risk assessments and develop evacuation and safety plans. Though most North Koreans don't have the means or leisure time to devote themselves to recreational hobbies, she said the government is keen on getting the mapping data and on drawing tourists.
"We want to open the DPRK as a surfing destination on a larger scale," she said. "The hope is to create a foundation and to pave the way for future surfers."