Located in Gwangalli, Busan, Kai is a surf shop that sells items related to surfing. / Courtesy of Kai
By John Redmond
The sport mostly associated with Hawaii and California, surfing, is seeing a boom in Korea leading to a surge in surfing related sports and clothing independent retail outlets.
The latest in this trend is Kai, a Korean/expat family run business of Kim Byung-sung and his wife Cheryl Kim, that opened in Busan Sunday.
Located in Gwangalli close to the beach it is named after the couple's five -month old daughter. It's the flagship store for Mi-Rae Trading their distribution company and carries only the brands they distribute for.
The shop sells products geared to meet foreigner needs, such as larger sized clothing.
"We carry Ocean and Earth apparel for men, women and children up to size 4XL for men and size 16 for women. We also have Ocean and Earth Surf hardware and are the only store in Korea to carry the Kommunity line by Kelly Slater for surf hardware", Cheryl Kim told The Korea Times.
"We also carry a full line of Surfer Girl products ― clothing and accessories which are only available in two other countries outside of Indonesia".
The company also plans to offer a wider selection of custom shaped surfboards.
"We sell Spider surfboards which are shaped by the legendary Spider Murphy (featured on CNN) and every board is custom ordered. We don't carry any precut boards. We will be introducing Canvas boards later this year", Kim continued.
Kim who learned to surf in Australia said the sport has grown here over the last few years.
"The crowds in the water have grown big time and this is attracting overseas companies to Korea".
Korea has seen a late boom in the sport of surfing and locals and westerners are demanding more choice in equipment, clothing and facilities.
"We are the only store in Korea to offer custom shaped and designed surfboards. For clothing we offer high end apparel at reasonable prices with expat sizing and have English speaking staff. Our surfing school will open in May and offers a western style surf package which includes surf coach, transport, equipment rental, snacks and videophotos of the surf experience as well as shower facilities for 60,000 won for three hours. We also do group lessons and offer discounts and plan a special event co-sponsored by our brands for group lessons", Kim elaborated.
The surf school is affiliated with the Korean Surfing Association (KSA).
The opening was attended by many surfers and also non-surfing members of the community.
"It's our goal to provide a service to the community at large and work together with other surf shops throughout Korea and not in competition with them. Each surf shop is unique and has something to offer that another doesn't so if we work together it will only make the surf culture in Korea stronger", said Cheryl Kim in an email to The Korea Times.
"Our shop is not just for surfers it's for everyone. We share our retail space with Vespa and have a small cafe with lounge area where people can come to shop, have a coffee and relax. We also want to give back to the community and are planning special events for International Surf Day and in May we will be sponsoring a beach volleyball tournament in Busan to benefit charity. We also sponsor the annual international surfing competition in Busan and have brought in teams from Southeast Asia to Korea. This year we plan to work with other international surfing federations to open up more opportunities for Korean surfers outside of Korea. And we want to start a grom (beginner) program and English surfing school with the KSA in the future to benefit the next generation of Korean surfers".
For more information on Kai Surf Shop call (51) 753-2746 or visit www.kaiyoung.com.
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2015 51st PaekSang Arts Awards