A man with his surfboard walking along the Ussuri Bay coast on Russky Island, Dec. 21, 2014. Source: Yuri Smityuk/TASS
Water that is warm – by Russian standards- good surfing schools for training, developed infrastructure, sandy beaches and a decent pier make Kaliningrad an excellent location for surfing.
“Kaliningrad is almost California,” said Anastasia Timarevskaya, head of the Russian Surfing Community project and participant in national surfing championships.
For beginners, the season starts in the summer, when the water temperature is around 20 degrees Celsius.
The strong waves in Kaliningrad in the fall, however, are suitable for more experienced surfers.
“It is a region close to Europe, but the prices are quite affordable here,” said Russian surfing champion Sergei Rasshivayev. This is especially the case for surfers from Moscow and St. Petersburg, since it is always possible to find reasonably priced flights from these cities.
Professional surfers suggest the resort towns of Pionersky and Zelenogradsk as the best spots to surf in the region.
The third stage of the Russian surfing championships will be held here from August 1 to 21.
“Surf’s up” is not the usual call in St. Petersburg. The waves are unreliable and the weather forecast needs constant checking. The positives include the ease with which the location can be reached and, if lucky, the waves can be as high as four meters.
“Surfing in St. Petersburg is quite hard, I would even say it is a different sport,” said Timarevskaya. “It requires nearly lightning-fast reactions. Sometimes you have to wait for a wave for 20 minutes. You even begin to doubt if there are ever any waves there. And then, suddenly there it is! And you ride it.”
High season here lasts from June to October. Local surfers, though, go surfing out till the Gulf of Finland and Lake Ladoga are covered with ice.
Key locations for surfers in St. Petersburg are sites in the settlement of Solnechnoye (Atlantis and Cape Flotsky) on the Gulf of Finland and Mayak on Lake Ladoga.
Kamchatka is a whole new world; a unique combination of volcanoes, the ocean and snow.
“Kamchatka cannot be compared to anything. It is a completely unique world,” said Timarevskaya. “There are world-class ocean waves there.”
The main site for surfing is the vast (30 kms long) Khalaktyrsky beach.
Along with excellent waves, the beach offers other interesting features, including the famed black volcanic sands and several volcanoes. And, of course, the stunning sunrises.
Professionals surf here not only in summer, but in winter too, when the whole peninsula is covered with snow.
Russian surfers made a video about it, which became something of a global hit online.
“Those who have heard of surfing in Russia, immediately think of Kamchatka. Which is absolutely right,” said Sergei Rasshivayev. “Although there can be excellent waves on the seas, it’s in Kamchatka that you can surf every day. In addition to the quality of the waves, it also offers the most stable conditions.”
In Vladivostok, there are several spots right in the city and several more on nearby islands. The season for beginners opens in spring, and throughout the summer the weather here is warm. Professionals, just like everywhere in Russia, go out surfing here all year round, closely following the waves forecast.
For Rasshivayev, surfing in Russia has its own particular character. “When you surf in the north, the first thing you feel is the joy of a new experience, of it being different from what you are used to. There are no palms around, only fir trees. You are dressed not in shorts but in a wet suit. It is a departure from stereotypes,” he said.
According to the professionals, cold water is nothing to be afraid of because modern wetsuits are very good at retaining heat, with some even fitted with an internal heating system.
Black Sea coast
Although the Black Sea coast is relatively easy to reach, there are no surf schools for beginners here, so this location is better suited for experienced surfers who have their own gear.
Experienced surfers say that in Sochi, which has for several seasons been very popular with Russian tourists, it is possible to catch waves similar to ocean ones. In Anapa, for example, in addition to surfing, you can also try windsurfing and kiting. There are good waves also to be found in stormy weather in Crimea.
Good spots in the area can be found in Khosta-Rika, Lazarevskoye, and Ashe. The season here lasts from October till March, when the sea is rough.
Interestingly, it is here that professionals coming to these spots in winter try to combine two seemingly incompatible pursuits: surfing and snowboarding.
First published in Russian in Gazeta.ru.
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