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Finding Flow in Korea

When I read “Finding Flow” in the Outdoor Japan Longboard Section for the first time, I mused how cool it sounded; how Zen. “Yes, I’m finding this rhythm,” I thought as I carved and tucked hills in New Brunswick, Canada. It wasn’t until I came to Korea that I fully realized this phenomenon. I hadn’t found flow; rather, I had found the rush of adrenaline. Flow rests in the calm that washes over you smoothly. Adrenaline crashes over you like a concrete tidal wave. Both are desirable.

In Seoul’s car-choked streets, I discovered what it’s like to flow. As I diced a one laner, the feeling snuck up on me. I knew I had found it…perhaps it had found me. It didn’t happen bombing at breath-taking speeds or screeching around a sharp corner. Cruising, I somehow rolled into that blissful zone.
The feeling didn’t rush over me; it was more of a Buddhist calm. When I realized what had happened, I didn’t want to leave. With the wind blowing lightly on my cheeks, the freshness entering my mouth, I forgot about problems, shrugged off stress—and escaped into the now.

Since then I strive for that medium between flow and adrenaline. For most skaters, it’s not enough to forever carve smooth pavement. We need moments of longboard skating exhilaration, moments of “Oh no! I’m going fast—and I like it!” Korea has that to offer, both in amplitude and abundance.

Longboarding in Korea, however, is still a newborn of sorts. Koreans are amazed, eyes wide and jaws dropped, at the sight of a four-wheeled, self-propelled speed machine barreling down their virgin streets. These stares are opposite those in North America. Koreans look on with great curiosity. “Wohhhhhha,” an elongated version of “wow” and an astonished look, preludes a double-barreled thumbs up.

Korea’s skating panorama changes as abruptly as winter to summer. City riding is sick—no run-outs, narrow streets, cars, deep pitches, people everywhere and lots of choices. Strap the board onto your motor bike, drive 10 minutes, and rural drop-ins are there to charge, long run-outs kill off your speed and empty two-laners await the longing heart. Instead of taxi drivers, truck drivers are in fleet, the ubiquitous thumbs up switching to the trucker’s wave.

Skating in Korea isn’t all peachy though. Honking is a national pastime and wildly celebrated. Further the racing, lumbering, bellowing wheeled beasts won’t give you much grace on the road. When you cruise by a cop car though, and nothing happens, you realize how good you have it.

Seoul and the surrounding mountainous provinces are paved as if with skate routes in mind. The country is like a rice field in harvest season for a skater. A longboard and sliding gloves are the tools for harvesting euphoria and satisfaction. Heck, my fingers are sweating at the thought of them dragging across never before skated pavement—and the ensuing combination of flow and adrenaline is what counts.

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