When she’s not longboarding around the streets of South Korea or the rest of the world, Hyojoo Ko can be found creating content for her massive online following. We meet the skater to discuss femininity, Korean work culture and its skating scene
Hyojoo Ko is a professional Seoul-based longboarder, who took up the sport on a whim 7 years ago when she was considering an outdoor hobby to achieve work-life balance. After graduating in Fine Art and Visual Communication Design, she excelled in UI design at IT company Naver, winning numerous awards. However, after 5 years with the company, Hyojoo Ko had big dreams of taking her content creating skills combined with her hobby to the next level. For the last 7 years, she has worked as a longboard riding content creator, travelling around the world with her board, and one day hopes to become an actor too!
Glorious: When and why did you start skating?
Hyojoo Ko: I worked as a User Interface (UI) designer for Naver, South Korea’s number one search portal. The work environment has improved now, but back then, whether I wanted to or not, I often worked overtime, leaving around midnight and also worked weekends, as this was considered normal in Korea. Living that life, I usually ended up wasting time, relaxing at home and not knowing what to do with my free time. I felt like I was living my life for the company and not for myself, so I decided to start an outdoor hobby and that’s when I began longboarding.
Glorious: Do you only longboard skate?
Hyojoo Ko: I am only riding a longboard at the moment. I tried skateboarding when I was given a board as a gift. I was told that it would be easier to ride and do tricks as it is smaller and lighter than a longboard, but as I’m used to longboarding, I didn’t find it easier! If I had more free time, I would love to give skateboarding another go.
Glorious: You roller-skate as well as longboard, which do you prefer and how do they differ?
Hyojoo Ko: Longboarding and roller skating have similar techniques, although some techniques are harder in longboarding than roller skating and vice versa. I wear roller skates to practice my longboarding skills when i’m stuck- it really works! I’m interested in further developing this skill! Honestly, I enjoy both and like that freedom two lots of wheels gives me on roller skates!
Glorious: Tell us about the longboard skating scene in Korea. What are the challenges?
Hyojoo Ko: Longboard skating is not popular in Korea when compared with other sports on wheels such as cycling, which you learn when you’re young. For that reason, when we see a new skater we implicitly take care of them. When adults first start to longboard, they often get badly injured by riding with the wrong posture. That’s why when we (professionals) see a person who is just starting out, we help them to achieve the right posture and offer tips on riding a longboard safely.
Glorious: Longboarding might not be as popular as other sports in Korea, but do you think more young women are keen to jump on a longboard?
Hyojoo Ko: Yes, because longboard dancing is feminine and easy to learn, so many women attempt to give it a go in comparison to other board sports. However, as you do often fall and receive minor injuries whilst learning, we see a lot more women giving it up before men.
Glorious: You wear very ‘girly’ clothes when skating which is a juxtaposition to the ‘typical’ skater girl. How do you choose your outfits and is the clothing you show on social media what you wear day-to-day?
Hyojoo Ko: The clothes that I wear when I film content are completely different to the clothes I wear when practising and so are the clothes that I wear on a day-to-day basis. When I create content for social media, I tend to wear soft flowing skirts or dresses that emphasise my movement when riding. I wear comfy sportswear when practising, like leggings or jeans, but on days off I like to wear something more formal- clothes that I’m unable to wear when skating!
Glorious: Skating in your national costume, ‘Hanbok’ was beautiful. How did you feel?
Hyojoo Ko: I love Hanbok and find the beautiful colours and elegance of it so attractive. Hanbok is perfect to wear when riding. The colours, the free flowing fabrics in the wind, the wide long skirt- they’re all perfect for shooting a brilliant video. I feel that I ride better in Hanbok!
Glorious: Who is your favourite fashion designer and why?
Hyojoo Ko: I recently did an opening performance for a Korean designer brand, BESFXXK, at New York Fashion Week. This brand makes experimental garments based on deconstructionism and I like it because the clothes can be worn in three or four different ways depending on how you style them.
Glorious: You travel a lot, so where are your favourite places to travel and skate?
Hyojoo Ko: Paris is the city I love the most and the place I’ve visited most. I appeared in a short experimental film for a production firm in Paris, and the experience of walking and riding on a longboard through the streets of Paris was very impressive. A Black female longboarder and I were filmed freely riding longboards like outlaws on the streets of Paris. While I can say that I am familiar with Paris as I have visited often, Paris felt completely different when I rode a longboard across the streets!
Glorious: Do you have any special memories you want to share after starting skating?
Hyojoo Ko: Since I started longboarding, whenever someone asked me ‘Is there a place you’d like to go longboarding?’ the answer has always been an airstrip. The fact that an airstrip can only be seen from the airport or from inside a plane makes it such an attractive spot for longboarders! Of course, I think the premise of ‘a place you can never ride’ makes it more appealing. However, i’m going to have to come up with a new answer, as in 2021, due to the circumstances of the pandemic, my dream came true! Incheon International Airport Corporation commissioned the production of a promotional video, so I was able to film inside the airport, riding to the gate, as well as on the airstrip! According to an Incheon Airport official, I was the first person in the world to ride a board here, and will probably be the last!
Glorious: Do you play or have an interest in other sports?
Hyojoo Ko: If I had time, there are so many sports that I would like to do, such as free diving, ice skating, skim-boarding, and tennis. I really want to set time aside this year to learn free-diving and ice skating.
Glorious: You used to be a UI designer, do you still do any design related work or have interests in art?
Hyojoo Ko: When using a new service with a smartphone, out of habit, if the UI is inconvenient or confusing to use, I question why it was made in a certain way. For example, is this inconvenience due to unavoidable developmental limitations? As someone who majored in visual communication design, this is an advantage when working as a content creator on project proposals, storyboarding, and video editing etc.
Glorious: Where are some places/cities you want to skate next?
Hyojoo Ko: Now that I have achieved my dream of riding an airstrip, I want to ride a longboard all over the world!
Glorious: What’s next for Hyojoo Ko?
Hyojoo Ko: I have worked as a content creator for 7 years and as video content has grown so much, I naturally have a desire to take my content in various directions. I started studying acting and want to continue to develop my content. If there is an opportunity, I would like to be known as an actor as well as a longboarder!