▲ A co-founder of The Jeju Big Swim, Sherrin Hibbard takes a breather after finishing the 10-km swim from Samyang Beach to Hamdeok on Aug. 13. Photo by Darryl Coote
On Aug. 13 at Samyang Beach, Jeju City, a small group of people banded together to achieve a goal that many before had cast aside believing that someone else would do it.
The Jeju Big Swim, sponsored by the World Environment and Peace Summer School and with remaining money donated for last year’s event, organized a 10-km swim from Samyang to Hamdeok Beach to raise awareness about the environmental degradation of Jeju’s seas.
Along with the 10-km swim, there was a 10-km walk along the coast from Samyang to Hamdeok, as well as a 1-km swim. Approximately 25 people participated.
Sherrin Hibbard, a co-founder of The Jeju Big Swim and one of three people who participated in the 10-km swim, said that the organization has undergone a transformation from its first event last year, which only consisted of Hibbard and Steve Oberhauser in kayak trying to circumnavigate the waters around the island.
“It’s a different event,” Hibbard said after returning from the water. “Last year was about two foreigners doing their thing around Jeju. This year it is a community event and was organized by Korean people and wasn’t about foreigners ... This year was a community event and that’s a big difference.”
Though smaller in size compared to last year, this event encouraged all to participate. Kim Cheol Soo, a doctor from Seoul who was in Jeju this past weekend for a family vacation, decided to do the 10-km swim after seeing an ad for the event in a local newspaper.
“If you are human it is natural to care about the nature. The bottom of the sea is very different now from 20 years ago. I was surprised that it has gotten so polluted over the last 20 years,” Kim said.
He continued that the swim changed him, it has made him more aware of the need to protect the environment, and that this change will have a ripple effect to all close to him which will help to raise environmental awareness.
▲ From left, Dr. Kim Cheol Soo, Sherrin Hibbard, and Kim Chun Dae were the three people who participated in the 10-km swim. Photo by Darryl Coote
▲ Dr. Kim Cheol Soo on a family vacation from Seoul came upon the event by happenstance, and after having participated in the 10-km swim said that the event has changed his attitude towards conserving the environment. Photo by Darryl Coote
“It changed me. And because it changed me it will influence my family… that’s why I think [this event] can change people [to be more aware],” Kim said.
Hong Eun Seop, who was one of 18 people to participate in the 1-km swim, summed up the condition of Jeju’s coast: “The sea is slowly dying,” he said adding he hopes this event will encourage more people to take action.
Though Hibbard was only a participant in this year’s The Jeju Big Swim, she has big hopes for its future.
“I believe that this event has a lot of potential, that it can get bigger and bigger on Jeju, but I also believe that we could end up with a Mokpo Big Swim, a Busan Big Swim, a Seoul Big Swim. Communities all around Korea could have a day for swimming just to remind people about the environment. That’s the potential I see with this event.”
From its evolution of a two-man endeavor to the community event observed this last weekend, The Jeju Big Swim may be something different next year, but its goal to preserve the environment will stay intact.
“We’re hoping to have something next year. What format it’s going to take I don’t know,” Hibbard said.
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