Culture: Surfing in the Moscow Times

Come read about wave jams in Kamchatka, from a Russian perspective… 

It’s minus twelve degrees celsius in the Russian capital right now. On the Kamchatka peninsula, the Bear’s most eastern point, it’s minus twenty one.

Don’t it make you want to surf?

Come with me to a map.


See that peninsula, way on the right, flanked by the Okhotsk and Bering Seas and way closer to Japan and the US than Moscow? That’s the hot new surf destination in Russia.

Let’s read the story Russian Surfers Turn Remote Region into Year-Round Surfing Mecca from the Moscow Times.

The hill overlooking Khalaktyrsky beach in the Far East Kamchatka region — 6,800 kilometers journey from Moscow — offers a stunning view in winter: snowy volcano peaks loom over an ocean with crystal-clear waves crashing upon pitch-black — volcanic — sand, the sky bright and colorful.
Local residents claim that during Soviet times, old U.S.-made sneakers could be found on this beach — washed ashore by strong oceanic streams. For struggling locals these shabby shoes were a valuable find.
Decades on from the days of men wearing these ragged — but American and therefore considered cool — running shoes on the streets of gloomy Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, the region’s capital, Khalaktyrsky beach is experiencing a reincarnation. It is now home to local surfers who ride the waves not only in the warmth of summer, but in winter’s freezing cold.
“Some years ago people here didn’t care about the ocean — the beach was completely empty. You could meet young guys here who had lived their whole lives in Petropavlovsk, but had never even seen the ocean,” says Anton Morozov, firebrand of the Kamchatka surfers and owner of the local Snowave snowboarding and surfing school.
Morozov, 33, admits that life in Kamchatka is expensive and there are multiple infrastructure problems, but surfing is his life and he will not be discouraged. Especially now that surfing in Kamchatka has grown increasingly popular and begun attracting tourists.

15 Minutes of Fame
Russians were surprised two years ago to discover that surfing was possible in one of the coldest parts of the country. The Surf in Siberia team — a collection of surfing enthusiasts from around Russia who make colorful films about their world travels — snagged the spotlight with its first film, which was devoted to Kamchatka and surfing during winter.
“Kamchatka is an incredible place,” Konstantin Kokorev, Surf in Siberia’s founder and director of the film, says in the video. “I’ve been here before several times — saw the ocean, the gulf, I saw ships sailing, but I had no idea you could surf here. People who live here have no clue they have world-class surfing opportunities!”
In addition to stunning landscapes, the 15-minute film depicts two surfers — Morozov and Kokorev, 34, — as they rush into the ocean right off the snow-covered shore.
“For me personally [winter surfing] is much brighter, if we talk about emotions. It’s much more difficult and dangerous — and it’s attractive because of that,” Kokorev, a Muscovite with eight years of surfing experience, told The Moscow Times.
“After we released the film some two years ago [on the project website], we got lots of feedback and questions about it,” Kokorev said. Both local and national media reported about the exotic sport back then, raising interest in it.
Since then, the overall number of tourists to Kamchatka had significantly increased, agreed Morozov. “People have been coming to see volcanoes, and the ocean, and I think we contributed to that a little,” he said.

Riding Waves
Morozov started surfing more than 10 years ago. “I’d always wanted to try, but back then there was nothing that would help me … All we could do was watch movies and documentaries and try to figure out how to surf,” he recalled.
When he tried for the first time — in the summer — he used a borrowed wetsuit and an old surfboard his Moscow friend had left him.
“The suit was no good for surfing,” Morozov says with a smile. “And we had no idea whatsoever how to do it — when to go to get nice waves, how far to swim. It took me months to learn all these things,” he said.
Morozov and other enthusiasts gradually accumulated enough information and experience to enjoy their new hobby. Eventually, they thought to try surfing in the winter.
“I’d heard there were people surfing during the winter in Canada, Norway and Iceland, for example. I saw a video with a guy surfing in the winter in Canada, and the beauty of him riding the waves against the snowy background just stunned me,” Morozov said.
His first winter experience was excruciating without a surfing wetsuit, gloves and boots, suitable for the winter.
“Although I was wearing two pairs of [surfing] gloves, my hands quickly went numb in the water. I ran out of the ocean screaming in pain and was afraid I wouldn’t be able to ever warm them again,” Morozov said.
Despite the bone-chilling cold, he managed to appreciate the beautiful scenery and fell in love with winter surfing. “We went to the ocean in the morning, right before the sunrise. It was unbelievable — because of the low temperature the air was crystal clear, the sun was rising from the water, our black diving suits contrasting with the white snow,” Morozov said.
This is his fifth surfing winter. Morozov and his fellow surfers now have the necessary gear and surf 3-4 times a week. “That feeling — when you struggle with yourself in cold water, and at some point the struggle ceases and leaves pure joy in its place — is special for me,” he added.

Surfer Girls Don’t Cry
His friend Lyudmila Tanachyova, 28, loves to surf, but finds the cold a particular challenge — she surfs in the winter out of necessity. “Here in Kamchatka we have only three months of summer, and if you take a break for the other nine months, the next summer you will have to learn things from the start all over again,” she said.
Tanachyova, a rock-climbing instructor, has been surfing for just two years and first tried riding the waves in the snow last winter. “I caught the wave and started falling, imagining the moment I would go underwater and thinking ‘Oh my God, here comes hell,'” she recalls of her first experience.
Initially Tanachyova had to prepare herself psychologically two days in advance of entering the water, but within months she acclimated. “If you have the right equipment — a warm wetsuit is paramount — there will be no problems at all,” she said.
The most important thing, she says, is to notice when you begin to freeze in the water and get out. During winter, the water measures 2 degrees Celsius on average, with an average air temperature of minus 15 degrees Celsius.
Both she and Morozov agree that their greatest obstacle in winter is not the cold but the lack of infrastructure. When snow buries the road to the beach, one can only reach it with a snowmobile, and a small beach-hut provides insufficient protection from the elements. “It’s pure torture to put on a diving suit in the cold,” Tanachyova said.
Yet, this surfer girl perseveres no matter the season. “[Surfing] is a constant struggle with yourself. But the feeling you get when you slide down the wave is worth it,” she said.

Year-Round Mecca
In his Snowave school Morozov teaches people of all ages to snowboard in the winter and to surf in the summer, when the Khalaktyrsky beach transforms into a camp with tents and food cooking over open fires.
His students have expressed an interest in winter surfing, and he hopes to establish a year-round camp of surfing enthusiasts.
The summer camp, according to Morozov, attract tourists from all over the world. A lesson, lasting 2-3 hours, costs 2,500 rubles ($32) in the summer and 3,000 rubles ($38) in the winter. The price includes surfboard and wetsuit rental.
Morozov claims that you can easily learn to stand on the board in the water during the first lesson. “It’s not that hard, … The most interesting stuff starts on the next level — when you’re eager to improve your skills,” he said.
The first summer he launched Snowave he had 20 students, but that number has multiplied. “Some of them are five or seven years old,” Morozov says proudly. “When parents see their children in the ocean, surfing, it impresses them deeply,” he adds.
Despite his love of winter surfing, Morozov recommends that beginners steer clear during cold months. “Surfing in general is a difficult sport, and in winter it’s twice [as hard],” he said.
A request for comment on whether surfers contribute to boosting tourism in the region, sent by The Moscow Times to the Kamchatka government, went unanswered by the time this article went to press.
According to Morozov, the regional government supports the Snowave school through grants. “We bought our first diving suits for kids with government money and are waiting for a piece of land to be allocated to us on the beach,” he said.
As for the difficulty of access to wetsuits, boards and other equipment — the problem was solved in 2014 when Quiksilver, the famous surfing and snowboarding brand, opened a franchise store in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky.
Kamchatka Has Potential
Sergei Rasshivayev, a professional surfer and head of the Russian Surfing Federation also believes that winter surfing is the most attractive and interesting direction the sport has taken.
“It’s a great way of challenging yourself, of experiencing completely different emotions. Surfing among palm trees is not intriguing anyone these days — surfing against a background of volcanoes and glaciers is,” he told The Moscow Times.
He has been to Kamchatka several times to surf, and says he would love to return and relive the experience. “When I first came there, the beauty of this place literally took my breath away,” Rasshivayev said.
Rasshivayev — who founded Surfholidays, a worldwide network of surf schools — believes Kamchatka shows promise despite its need for infrastructure modernization and its remote location that results in pricy plane tickets. “I think there is potential, and it’s quite significant. Kamchatka needs modernization, that’s true, but it’s not completely shabby either,” he said.
Morozov says “potential” does not even begin to cover it. “I study many things about surfing — climate, landscapes, weather conditions, winds, streams, and I’m positive there are many amazing places for surfing in Kamchatka that simply have not yet been discovered. But at some point we will,” he said.

See the story in its original form here. 

(Of course, the capitalist west, poisoned by the vice of greed, has long exploited surfing in the Kamchatka. See below!)

Watch: Dark Neon!

Have you been getting your El Nino? Have you been proud of the way you've surfed it?

El Nino has been such a wonderful gift for California. I surf everyday now and it is fun fun fun but my legs are wobbly from years of mush. When the wave goes square, for example, I drop out of the sky and think, “Oh bummer.”

And it makes me glad that the talented Erik Derman shot this little gem in very slow motion. I watch the professional legs of Jojo Roper, Dam Hobgood, Rob Machodo etc. and think, “That’s how!” and also “Oh.”

I want to be able to surf suckling monsters better than I have been and so I will paddle out today with these images in my mind and try to stick more landings. It seems to be all in the hips.

Ozzie Wright Israel
The Australian surfer Ozzie Wright part-way through a wall mural at the Rhythm store-bar in Netanya, Israel. Who's the king of the Jews? Let's sing!

Ozzie Wright Sings “King of the Jews”!

A song about Jesus by Ozzie Wright!

As you learned earlier in the week, BeachGrit is with the surfers Ozzie Wright and Otis Carey in Israel, that brave, lovely democracy, smartest people in the world, miracle of the Middle East etc.

(Commenters, I can hear your engines firing into life! But no need to be sad or to start unfurling your Hamas flags. Keep reading!)

Two nights ago, while returning home from what we all agreed was the equal finest bar we’d ever been to (Salon Romano, Tel Aviv, ties with Dalida, also in Tel Aviv), Ozzie hit on a ukulele chord progression and first verse that just… grew.

Earlier, we’d agreed that if we could gather enough clips, we’d make a short. But that short would need an original song specific to the region.

Wasn’t Jesus born in these parts? The Nazarene? Wasn’t Jesus the self-appointed King of the Jews, a claim that would later see him on the spike?

Ozzie dropped the first verse about Jesus’ birth and his (disputed) parentage. BeachGrit threw in a King of the Jews hook (of course!), Otis Carey choruses with gusto (and a Shalom at the end) and it just kinda works. Or doesn’t.

The quality of the sound suggests King of the Jews was recorded in a studio, a Rick Ross production maybe, but, no, backseat of a car at three thirty am, on an iPhone.

Mark Healey: “I can’t save you!”

An excerpt from a Surfer's Journal masterpiece!

Any of y’all familiar with post-accomplishment depression? Like, you achieve a goal and just fucking hate yourself afterwards? Because now you’ve gotta figure out what to do next, and it’s gotta be better, and you don’t really know how to go about it.

So this month’s Surfer’s Journal, issue 25.1, has a piece in it by yours truly, about Dave Wassel, and you really need to rush out and drop $16 on a copy. Right now! Go do it!

Writing about Wassel is pretty much a gift. The guy is intelligent, eloquent, interesting, funny. And a total man’s man. If I didn’t prefer women our interactions would have gotten pretty uncomfortable. For him. Dude’s just amazing, total personal hero, loved by everyone. I mean, how the hell do you make it to adulthood without making any enemies?

Writing for Surfer’s Journal is a dream come true for a wanna-be surf writer like me. I know I should play it cool, no big deal, but it’s been a long time since I’ve seen my words actual print, and for it to be a beautiful glossy work of art like this… my goodness. Pretty sweet.

They asked for three thousand words, I delivered seven thousand, which was then cut down to five by Alex Wilson. Kind of a kick in the nuts, but only because his edit was way better than my final draft. It’s both a blessing and a curse, getting edited hard and seeing a better result.

Here’s an excerpt from what I sent in, Mark Healey talking about a day with Wassel at an Oahu outer reef.

It was probably the craziest day I’ve ever surfed, and it was just me and him at the outer reefs. No inflation vests, no jet skis, just board shorts and surfboards. He showed up with this, like, huge 10’8 board that looked like a total piece of shit to me. But we’re out there and the waves are getting really, really big. It was crazy. I’d imagine, there’s no photos of the day, but just comparing to days I’ve been out and it’s been huge, it was all of sixty feet, and like, top to bottom freakin’ triple spit barreling, with just us out in the evening. And it was doing this underground, almost Teahupoo-esque, how it kind of drops and you can actually see the reef contour. This is way outside, like the actual reef ledge it’s breaking on is maybe forty feet deep, dropping off to about seventy. So for that amount of water to be moving and to be able to see the contour on a forty foot shelf is pretty incredible.

Dave, he turned on this wave that was like twenty five feet and absolutely scooping up and I’m losing my mind because it looked like the wave was gonna barrel over his head on the takeoff.

I remember it being a similar view to the one Andy got at Teahupoo, that amazing huge wave, where I was like, ‘Oh my god, it just broke right over him.’

The last thing I told him, I was yelling at him and the first thing that came to my mind was ‘I can’t save you!’ I had to get that off my chest, that, like, I couldn’t do anything at all. I hope he’s not doing this thinking I can help him. Because we could both die out here.

I watched this wave just unload, spit sooooo hard, go into another section, spit soooo hard, and then he pops out the back just screaming. And then gets sucked over the falls. I still can’t believe he made it that far. Clearly, the only way that he made it, he must have packed the barrel, like grabbed rail and got the fucking craziest 25 foot double spit underground barrel. And he got sucked back over, just screaming, ‘YEAH!’

Back then we chewed tobacco a lot, and that was our competition. We’d go out on those big outer reef days and see how long you could keep your dip in. And so, he got that wave and when he was punching though I could see, from like a hundred yards away, he’s all, ‘YEAH!’ and as he’s getting sucked back over the falls he pulls the dip out of his lip and holds it in the air claiming it, then puts it back in his lip and just disappears.

It was quite possibly one of the most heroic things I’ve ever seen.

Then his leash breaks, and we’re almost mile out at sea, and he’s still just screaming, ‘YEAH!YEAH!YEAH!’ and then starts swimming in. And it’s a sketchy swim.

So he just swam in and I was thinking, ‘I hope he made it to shore.’ We were so far away, it’s not like I was going inside there. I saw him later, on the beach at dark. I stayed out by myself until then, I didn’t have much of a choice.

Bruce Irons

Documentary: Bruce Irons at Volcom!

Home sweet home.

Red Bull’s series detailing life inside the most famous Pipeline houses continues, this time with a peek into the preparation for Vans World Cup of Surfing and also how the boys surf it. Bruce Irons, pops up and gives an interview on Pipeline, his relationship to the wave, and how he still visualizes himself hoisting a trophy at an event here. Plus a little bit of Balaram Stack. Remember how awesome it almost was that he was dating Christie Brinkley? He texted me, after the story went live, that they were just friends but it was too late to do anything. A boy can dream, no?