The following is a translated account of a national (Seoul) magazine article from Samteo, written by Kang Jae-yoon:
(Note: Ji-su translated this into English and Steve edited Ji-su's English translation.)
The person of this month: Number 1 Foreigner Haenyeo who is going to swim around Jeju, Sherrin Hibbard
"(People) say it's beautiful but why not protect it?"
A storm watch has been issued. All the boats waiting to sail have hid themselves inside the seawall. On this kind of day, the owner of the sea isn't the owner or the captain of the ferry. Only the strong wind is the almighty ruler of the sea way. Only those who obey the wind's rule can be guaranteed to survive in this sea.
Sherrin Hibbard. She as well is waiting for the storm to calm down. Soon she will swim around Jeju. Sherrin is working as an English teacher at Jeju National University Middle School, but she is more famous as a blue-eyed haenyeo. Last year (2009), she graduated from Hansupul Haenyeo Hakgyo from Hallim and became a haenyeo.
For four months every Saturday at Haenyeo Hakgyo, when everyone else went in the sea to catch seafood, she caught garbage. In the beginning, everyone laughed at her. Two weeks, and then three weeks after she still picked up garbage and others only laughed. But on the fourth week, when she harvested garbage, others asked the reason why she did so and started to get interested. This April, Sherrin participated in the Haenyeo Diving Competition and came in 60th place out of 60 haenyeos entered. It's because she picked up garbage instead of seafood from the sea.
"Sea is my destiny"
If we look back, Sherrin and the sea were destined to be together. Sherrin was born in Australia and lived near the Sydney port and Opera House. She spent her childhood playing in the sea. She would get on the ferry and jump off in the middle to swim. When she was 11, she told her mom, "I want to experience everything." So, she quit school when she was 15 and left home when she was 17 to live in a small island in the Pacific Ocean and started developing her life. Her father was not happy with her choice of living with adventure and travelling, but her mother supported her.
Sherrin, who went around many countries and took many jobs, went back to Australia and worked as a fisherman for 12 years. On deep-sea fishing vessels for one, these are normally out at sea for three to four months at a time to work. To survive on those rough seas as a woman, she needed to have a strong "character." When she first got on the boat, she was the only woman fisherman. In the first seven years she worked as a fisherman and cook, but because she worked with "character" she was acknowledged by the male fisherman and worked as a deckhand, mate and then up to captain.
(picture 2 - Hibbard and Oberhauser, who are training at Jeju Samyang Beach. The Jeju Big Swim's project itinerary and route can be found at http://www.thejejubigswim.blogspot.com/ (picture from http://www.thejejubigswim.com/))
Later, she became the captain of a boat with only women fishermen and sailed across the ocean. After quitting the life as a fisherman, she became a boat builder. At age 35, she went to university to major in Marine Archeology and became a haenyeo in Jeju, so she has never lost touch with the sea.
Big Swim Project to protect beautiful Jeju
Sherrin came to Korea on the recommendation of her friend who was already working as an English teacher on the peninsula. Luckily, she got a teaching job on Jeju island. She came to Jeju and only planned to stay there for one year but fell in love with the beauty of Jeju. She has been living there for six years. She first met haenyeo at Jungmun's Haenyeo House and felt a deep connection with them. Because she wanted to become a haenyeo, she went to Thailand to learn free diving, then went to Haenyeo Hakgyo and fulfilled her dream of becoming one.
She is happy with teaching children and diving around beautiful Jeju. However, she feels sorry that people living in such a beautiful place do not realize how precious it is. Why would they treat the sea so badly? Why would they throw garbage and overfish? Why would they build high buildings that ruin the beautiful scenery? She feels sad to watch Jeju becoming marred by environmental pollution and development. That is why she decided to swim around Jeju.
She will start at Jeju Samyang Beach on July 31st, 2010 and will swim through the rough waters for about 20 days and 200 kilometers. The project is called "The Jeju Big Swim." American English teacher Steve Oberhauser, who felt the same way as Sherrin, will sea kayak and accompany her. If a lot of people feel the same way with her and cheer for her, Sherrin will leave a small but meaningful trace on "The World Natural Heritage" of Jeju's environmental history.
Written by Gang Jae-yoon (poet, traveler)
Picture by Ju Hyun-shik
Progressed by Kim Shin-chul (university student reporter)
-Ji-su's writing, Steve (editing only)