Showing posts with label sports. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sports. Show all posts

September 25, 2013

Night Fishing in Jeju

After jointly devouring a large hamburger that shared the same dimensions as a medium sized pizza somewhere in the middle of Jeju, my two travel companions and I rushed towards the coastline of Korea's favourite island. We squeezed in a visit to see the perfectly hexagonal basalt formations formed by the cooling of liquid lava at Jungmun Beach, before continuing onwards in our rented car at a breakneck pace to a dock where a boat awaited to take us night fishing.

I was traveling with a Korean woman and an American man. The lady was the only one with a valid driving license so she had rented a car. The American and I could only hope for the best as we burned rubber across Jeju. We arrived at the secluded dock with minutes to spare before the launch took off. Prior to stepping onto the deck of our fishing vessel, we loaded up on some supplies to get us through the night - bait, fishing gloves, and some snacks. Several Korean vacationers also joined us on board.

As the sun set and darkness embraced us we sailed out into the open ocean along with a few other fishing vessels. We dropped anchor after we were an adequate distance out into open water and well spaced apart from the other potential night fishermen and women. The floodlights were turned on, illuminating the vessel and a small region around us. Luckily, no one on our boat felt sea sick so we could stay out longer than the other vessels.

A crew member showed me how to take the shrimp we were using as bait and attach it to the fish hook. It was a bit like threading a needle. On my first attempt I hooked my glove instead of the bait, and battled the fishing rod for a while until the crew member prevented me from becoming the first fisherman to catch himself with his own fishing rod. I soon became adept at the process and in no time was catching mackerel like there was no tomorrow. The fish would be yanked on to the ship, disengaged from the hook, and tossed into a bucket.

Mackerels are known for swimming near the surface and for easily being tricked into taking the bait. Their limited intellect makes them the ideal candidate for novice fishermen such as myself. My Korean friend caught the most fish, with the equally inexperienced American and I lagging far behind. The crew kindly cut and cleaned the fish for dinner. They even brought out a portable stove for us foreigners, as they were worried we would not be able to handle raw fish. I tried both the cooked and uncooked varieties, but preferred the raw one.


The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope. ~ John Buchan

July 10, 2013

Ice Fishing at Hwacheon

My fishing skills are about as well honed as the critical thinking abilities of an average South Korean youth. Nevertheless, I could not pass up the opportunity to visit the annual ice fishing festival in Hwacheon. The region is the first part of South Korea to freeze over in winter time. After a hearty dakgalbi luncheon at Chuncheon and a scenic drive past snow covered hills and frozen lakes, I arrived at the site of the Hwacheon Sancheoneo (Mountain Trout)  Festival.

The well organized event is a heavy favourite of young families. The lengthy sheet of ice that plays host to the festival is divided up into plots with separate entrances so that the crowds are distributed evenly across the frozen surface of Hwacheoncheon. Fishing equipment is readily available at stalls beside the entrances, although using bare hands is a fun alternative. The holes in the ice had already been dug, but I am unaware whether it was the handiwork of festival organizers or prior visitors. I tried several different holes of varying sizes.

Some of the 10,000 daily visitors were heavily invested into the activity, sticking their heads into the holes to see if they could catch a glimpse of any sea creatures. Others were more nonchalant about their participation in the festival. A K-girl was glued to her smartphone, operating the gigantic device with one hand and weakly holding the fishing rod with the other as if it was an overpriced vanilla latte. It was speculated that she was playing an addictive fishing game on her phone.

At regularly scheduled intervals a truck would pull up to the edge of the river bed. Festival staff would throw hundreds of trout transported from parts unknown into the water. A frenzy of activity would take place around this time, with many yelps of excitement emanating from attendees of indistinguishable gender as they celebrated their catch. The event is staged to ensure everyone comes out a winner, but despite an hour or so of focused effort and Korean office worker-like diligence I was unable to capture any trout.


Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after. ~ Henry David Thoreau 

October 29, 2012

Show Run

During the run up to the Formula One Korean Grand Prix, Red Bull presented a show run in Seoul for all those disinclined to make the trek down to Yeongam. I had seen the Red Bull Racing team capture their first chequered flag in Shanghai and then passed by their serene mountain headquarters nestled in the Swiss Alps. Now I would watch the Red Bull race car complete a couple of lightning fast laps of Banpo Bridge, the same location where the spectacular rainbow fountain show is held every night. 

As the holder of both the driver's and constructor's championship titles two years running, the Austrian team has been the dominant force on the Formula One circuit in recent times. Red Bull does not have the storied history or loyal fan base of a team like Ferrari, but the success on the track combined with their marketing savvy off of it has given them solid name recognition. A lot of youth disinterested in the sport but interested in appearing cool were present at the show run. 

Apart from the Red Bull cars and girls, there were a few oddities to attract attention (and I am not referring to myself). On a platform beside the bridge were a large group of taekwondo students filming their own version of the viral hit Gangnam Style. On the other side, a remote controlled flying robot was circling overhead taking video footage of the crowd. It was my first time to see an unmanned aerial vehicle in such close proximity.


"If you’re in control, you’re not going fast enough." – Parnelli Jones

October 26, 2012

Formula 1: 2012 Korean Grand Prix

I slept in on Sunday morning in Mokpo, until only a few bodies were scattered around the previously packed floor of the jimjilbang. After a quick rinse, I left the bathhouse and made my way to a large man made waterfall on one edge of town. At a nearby bus stop I asked a beauty if the bus would go to the terminal. She looked at me, her double eyelids fluttering in fear, and emitted no sound. The bus driver was more friendly, nodding that the bus went to my destination. I ate some pork fat soup at a family run restaurant near the bus terminal. The old lady who ran the place brought me some extra fruit to eat and showed me how to peel them.

Conventional logic would have dictated the Korean stop on the Formula One schedule be located somewhere near Seoul or Incheon, perhaps somewhere like futuristic Songdo. In actuality the Korean International Circuit is located five hours to the south in Yeongam, on the opposite end of the peninsula. This is part of a government plan to promote tourism and boost the economy in this region, and it has poured a lot of money into the effort.

The bus ride from Mokpo to Yeongam was uneventful, as was the race after the first few laps. In Shanghai it rained the whole race, so there were a lot of slips, slides, and spins. The weather was cloudy but clear for the Korean Grand Prix. The track is the longest in Asia and second longest in the world after Italy's Monza. As the visibility was very good I could see a lot of the track from the grandstand, but there were no racing incidents or overtaking manoeuvres in my area.

I wagered that the action on the racetrack would be able to hold the attention of the K-girls in attendance for the first 10 laps of the 55 lap race before they reverted to playing with their handphones, but I was wrong. It took only 7 laps.  For the second time in as many Formula One races as I have been to, Sebastien Vettel emerged victorious. After the race there was a special concert by Gangnam Style sensation Psy, a last minute addition to draw in more spectators to the event.


"Auto racing began 5 minutes after the second car was built." – Henry Ford

July 25, 2011

ARNABlades of Glory

Expo 86 shaped the Vancouver of today, leaving behind BC Place, Canada Place, Science World, and the SkyTrain as significant parts of its legacy. For the 2010 Winter Olympics, one of these legacy projects was the Richmond Olympic Oval. On December 12, 2008 the oval was opened to the public. As part of the opening ceremonies, the masses were invited to skate on its icy surface or merely admire its form and function.

I entered the oval, briefly gazing at the sleek wood paneling on the roof, before turning my attention to the sheet of ice before me. I took a deep breath and sat down on a bench to put on on my skates. The sinews of my arms rhythmically stiffened and loosened as I laced my ARNABlades on. I stood up to test that the skates fit snugly around my ankles so that they did not wobble and hinder my balance. Satisfied that they did, I pulled off my blade covers and and ran my fingers gently across the edge. Both the tips of my blades and my eyes sparkled as I stepped onto the oval. It was unlike any ice rink I had skated on before.

I glided around the smooth surface of the track, effortlessly sidestepping any toddlers, novices, or Olympic mascots that were not keeping pace. I completed several dozen laps of the oval before calling it a day. The facility was impressive from top to bottom. Apart from the speedy ice surface, which could be replaced with turf or ball courts as desired, the roof was another attention grabber. Its rippling wooden roof was constructed in the shape of a heron's wing in recognition of the Salish people who had first inhabited the area. Giant sky lanterns artfully adorn the exterior of the complex. These nets, made out of polytetrafluoroethylene mesh, change shape in concert with the wind.


"I was more interested in skating and the girls and traveling than I was in calculus." - Scott Hamilton 

June 19, 2011

Vancouver Riots 2011

They were the best hockey team throughout the season by a large margin. They never trailed a series in the playoffs, and leading 2-0 in this one. Yet, the Vancouver Canucks lost in the 7th game of the Stanley Cup Final. Soon after the lovable losers failed to secure Lord Stanley's Cup for the 41st consecutive year, the rioting began. The crowds that had gathered on the streets to watch the game became unruly.

Although no stranger to danger, I was not involved in this particular riot. The mob consisted primarily of young white males. They set cars on fire, hurled insults and garbage at police officers, engaged in fisticuffs, and looted stores. The police methodically cleared out the streets of rioters as quickly as they could. As darkness fell in a city, it was clear that it had lost a lot more than a championship.

The world's most livable city showed its better side the next morning. Hundreds of volunteers helped to clear the streets of the debris left behind from the mayhem of the night before. Outside the Bay's flagship store, which had been pillaged by the Vancouverioters, an "Apology Wall" came into being. The shattered windows of the storefront had been boarded up with plywood, and Vancouverites had started writing messages on the wooden planks. The notes stated how sorry the people were for the behaviour of the rioters and expressed dismay and anger at the ugly turn of events in the Olympic city.


Gone the city, gone the day,
Yet still the story and the meaning stay:
Once where a prophet in the palm shade based,
A traveler chanced at noon to rest his mules.
“What sort of people may they be,” he asked,
“in this proud city on the plains o’erspread?”
“Well, friend, what sort of people whence you came?”
“What sort?” the packman scowled; “why, knaves and fools!”
“You’ll find the people here the same,” the wise man said.
Another stranger in the dusk drew near,
And pausing, cried, “What sort of people here
in your bright city where yon towers arise?”
“Well, friend, what sort of people whence you came?”
“What sort?” the pilgrim smiled, “Good, true, and wise.”
“You’ll find the people here the same,” the wise man said.
-— from Edwin Markham's "The Right Kind of People"

June 15, 2011

We Are All Canucks

With Vancouver in the Stanley Cup Final, the whole city has been in high spirits since my return. Fans, old and new alike, have donned Canucks jerseys as they gather in public spaces to watch the games on large screens. The streets of downtown Vancouver near the main branch of the public library have four sets of screens in one square block, which are closed off to vehicular trafic several hours in advance. Most of the revelers gather here, with faces painted and flags in hand. They are ready to burst into raucous celebrations immediately following a Vancouver victory.

For those who want a more relaxed environment, comfortable seats, and unobstructed views, Rogers Arena telecasts games taking place in Boston on its giant screens. 20,000 fans wave Canucks towels and stand for the national anthem in unison. During the intermissions the ice girls skate out with Fin, the mascot, and launch prizes into the stands. A team of toddlers plays an action packed game of exhibition hockey during intermissions. It almost feels like being at the actual game.

The best celebrations happen in the most unexpected of places. In the Indo-Canadian suburb of Surrey, cars start honking their horns as soon as the final whistle blows after a Canuck win. Whole families, from preschoolers to grannies, come out to celebrate on the streets. Scantilly clad girls dance in the middle of a boulevard, vehicles tooting their horns in appreciation from both sides of the street as they pass by. The icing on the cake are the pickup trucks carrying dhols, large Indian drums, which are beat as rhytmically as the Canucks' opponents. Win or lose, the way that this city comes together in times like this is truly amazing.


"Even when you've played the game of your life, it's the feeling of teamwork that you'll remember. You'll forget the plays, the shots, and the scores, but you'll never forget your teammates." ~ Deborah Miller Palmore

June 11, 2011

Flame On

The most popular sports franchise in the city, the Vancouver Canucks, stood atop the National Hockey League's standings at the end of the regular season. It entered the Stanley Cup playoffs as the top ranked seed and one of the favourites to win the coveted trophy. After battling through three best-of-7 series, Vancouver claimed the Western Conference crown. In the finals they would face the Boston Bruins, winners of the East.

My return to Vancouver after 15 months away coincided with the return of the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Finals after 17 years. The city was in a jubilant mood at this pleasant turn of events. Once the hockey team had secured a 2-0 series lead, provincial politicians felt it was an appropriate time to to relight the Olympic Flame. It was fenced off during the Winter Games, so audiences could not get too close to it. The barricades had long since been removed, so this time around there was a clear view of the torch being lit.


 "If you're going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire." — Charles Bukowski

July 28, 2010

Arnab and the Sedin

Henrik Sedin led the NHL in scoring and captured the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league's most valuable player for the 2009-2010 season. Before his breakout year he was mostly known for being identical twins and lifetime linemates with his brother Daniel Sedin. Taken one spot after Daniel in the 1999 National Hockey League Draft by the Vancouver Canucks, he was supposed to be the playmaker while his brother was to be the scorer. He came face to face with another rising star in 2008 when he crossed paths with me.

Source: Canucks Army

I had just left my job at ResponseTek and was about to embark on my oriental oddysey. I met him in GM Place, the home of the Canucks. Preparations were under way for Vancouver fan favourite Trevor Linden's retirement ceremony. His #16 jersey was to be raised to the rafters the follwong night, so no one was allowed onto the skating surface of the arena as rehearsals were taking place. We chatted briefly outside the team dressing room and posed for some photographs, before I was herded off to the press room and he went off to do some exercises.


"A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be." ~ Wayne Gretzky

June 19, 2010

The Olympic Flame

A cross country Olympic Torch relay culminated in the hockey god known as Wayne Gretzky being revealed as the final torchbearer of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games. The opening ceremonies were held under the domed roof of BC Place Stadium, so the Olympic Flame was to be lit in a separate outdoor location for the first time. As Prometheus stole fire from Zeus and presented it to mortals, so too did the Great One as he ignited the Olympic Cauldron to the cheers of thousands.

Unfortunately, a chain link fence was quickly erected around the site of the Olympic Flame. This was to prevent visitors from being engulfed in the flames if they got too close. Inaccessible to the public, it was hard to get an obstructed view of the flames flickering against the night sky. The unwashed masses jockeyed for position in front of a hole in the fence, so they could capture a clear snapshot of the cauldron without being incinerated.


"A mighty flame followeth a tiny spark." ~ Dante Alighieri

June 17, 2010

The Sport of Kings

The thoroughbred was met with silence as he entered the race track. I looked around and noticed the audience was largely made up of senior citizens who were there to gamble away their retirement savings and government pensions. Through the centuries, the popularity of the equestrian sport has always been tied to betting on its outcome. I took a seat in the grandstand right in front of the finish line. The tag line of Vancouver's Hastings Racecourse is "Bred for Excitement", but I had no idea what to anticipate in my first live horse race.

With one devastating injury all that separates them from life and death, the careers of race horses are thankless and short lived. They are given mildly amusing monikers such as "Hoof Hearted" and "Gotta Pee". The horses were escorted to their starting gates where they calmly took their position. A shot rang out and they were off, their powerful legs picking up speed as they galloped around the race course. The diminutive jockeys did their best to guide the noble steeds to the finish line, but only one would feel the thrill of victory.


“A horse never runs so fast as when he has other horses to catch up and outpace.”
~ Ovid ~

May 10, 2010

Sporting Beijing

Beijing has established itself as a major sporting city after hosting the 2008 Summer Olympics. It is an important strategic stop in the circuits of the world's premier professional sporting organizations as they seek to enhance their popularity in the largely untapped Chinese market. I went to a variety of tournaments and exhibitions in the calendar year, witnessing:

  • Michael Schumacher edge out Jenson Button and David Coulthard in the Race of Champions which pits racers from different motoring backgrounds against each other in the Bird's Nest;
  • Lazio beat fan favourites Inter Milan in the Italian Super Cup final in the same cavernous venue;
  • Novak Dokovic, Andy Roddick, and Svetlana Kuznetsova smash forehands in the National Tennis Center in the frequently rain delayed finals of the China Open;
  • West Ham United, Tottenham Hotspurs, and Hull City of the English Premier League battle the local Beijing Gouan team for the right to hoist the Barclays Asia Trophy at Workers Stadium

"I always turn to the sports section first.  The sports page records people's accomplishments; the front page has nothing but man's failures." ~ Earl Warren

March 08, 2010

Imagine 2010

Five years ago, the Olympics were still a faraway thought in the minds of most Vancouverites. The Imagine 2010 launch event at GM Place introduced the general public to what was about to come in the years following. First Nations hosts, RCMP officers, and Cirque du Soleil performers all appeared on stage before the new Vancouver 2010 logo was officially unveiled.

An inukshuk sporting the five Olympic colours was chosen as the symbol of the Winter Games. The stone landmark was primarily used by natives of Canada's Arctic regions as a point of reference and food cache in the frozen tundra. The precursor to modern day GPS markers, inukshuks show the way ahead while providing hope of better things to come.


This is the moment we have dreamed of all our lives
We'll be the change we wish from others
We'll stand tall for what is right
And in my heart there'll be no doubt
The arms of the world will come reaching out
- Olympic theme song 'I Believe'

February 06, 2010

Formula 1: 2009 China Grand Prix

The Shanghai Formula 1 race is the main spectacle of speed on China's motorsport calendar. On race day it was raining heavily. The opening ceremonies included performances by the Shaolin Monks and a lap around the track with the drivers waving from atop a double decker bus. The crowd cheered as the first roar of the engines was heard. As the rain continued to pour down the cars zipped past, completing a a few warm up laps before the green lights indicated the Grand Prix of China had begun. It was a running start, with the pace car leading the way for the first few laps before moving aside. Sebestian Vettel and Jenson Button battled for the lead throughout the race, with Lewis Hamilton displaying some flair along the way but fading at the end.

On the wet track visibility was low and grip hard to come by. Aquaplaning was the primary activity of the day. we witnessed several spectacular crashes as driver errors unsurprisingly increased with the poor weather. Sebastien Vettel won the the race, but the day belonged to the drenched fans who had valiantly weathered the rainy day to witness the powerful combination of man and machine that is F1.

Race Notes:

My poncho was punctured early on in the race as the spectator seated in front of me could not maintain control of his umbrella. One of the spokes was violently driven through my protective raingear, tearing a swath through the plastic covering. The gash reduced my downforce and I began taking on water, never completely recovering for the remainder of the race. My pit crew could not patch it and no spare ponchos were available after the start of the race due to strict regulations prohibiting the sale of them within the circuit grounds.


"If you spend all of your time racing ahead to the future, you're liable to discover you've left a great present behind." - Tom Wilson