A small band of enthusiasts has helped the remote region of Kamchatka become a year-round mecca for surfers. The Moscow Times reports
he hill overlooking Khalaktyrsky beach in Siberias Kamchatka region offers a stunning view in wintertime, stretching out over snowy volcanoes and crystal-clear ocean waves crashing onto black volcanic sand. T
But look closer at the icy waves and you might find an unlikely wetsuit-clad silhouette since the beach has become home to a group of intrepid local surfers who ride the waves not only in the warm summer months, but in the long and freezing winters too.
Years ago people here didnt am worried about the ocean. The beach was completely empty, says Anton Morozov, a surfer and proprietor of local snowboarding and surfing school, Snowave. You could meet young guys who had lived their whole lives in Petropavlovsk, but had never even assured the ocean.
Now, despite its remote locating and absence of facilities, Kamchatka has begun to draw a steady river of visitors to its stunning scenery and its surf.
On Khalaktyrsky beach the water is sometimes warmer than the air. Photo: Moscow Times 15 minutes of fame
Kamchatka first grabbed Russias attention two years ago when
Surf in Siberia a collection of film-making surf fanatics dedicated a video to the regions winter waves.
Kamchatka is an incredible place, tells Konstantin Kokorev, the organisations founder.
Ive been here before several times considered the ocean, the gulf, ships sailing but I had no idea you could surf here. People who live here have no clue they have world-class surfing opportunities.
Surf in Siberias first 15 minute movie caught Russias attention
The film was soon picked up by local and national media and in the two years since local surfers say the number of visitors to Kamchatka has significantly increased.
Learning to surf
Morozov started surfing more than 10 years ago. Id 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, he tells.
When he tried for the first time in the summer he use a borrowed wetsuit and an old surfboard a friend had left him. The suit was no good for surfing, Morozov says. And we had no idea how to do it, when to get nice waves, how far to swimming. It took me months to learn all these things.
Anton Morozov tried wintertime surfing five years ago and fell in love with the beauty of it. Photograph: Alexander Gerasimov/ Moscow Times
Morozov and other enthusiasts gradually gathered enough information and experience to enjoy their new hobby. Soon they wanted to try surfing in winter.
I find a video with a guy surfing in the winter in Canada, and the beauty of him riding the waves against the snowy background merely stunned me, Morozov said.
His first wintertime experience, without winter wetsuit, boots or gloves, was excruciating. My hands promptly ran numb in the water. I operated out of the ocean calling in pain and was afraid I wouldnt be able to ever warm them again.
When they first started the surfers lacked the proper equipment. Photograph: Anton Morozov/ Moscow Times
Despite the bone-chilling cold, he fell in love with it. We went to the ocean in the morning, right before the sunup. 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, he said.
This is his fifth surfing wintertime. Morozov and his fellow enthusiasts now have the necessary gear and surf three to four times a week.
That feeling, when you struggle with yourself in cold water and at some phase the struggle ceases and leaves pure elation in its place is special for me.
Lyudmila Tanachyova love to surf and though she discovers the cold a challenge shes received herself braving the icy water out of necessity.
Here in Kamchatka we have only three months of summer, if you take a break for the other nine months, the next summertime you have to learn things from the start all over again, she says.
Originally a rock-climbing teacher, she first tried the athletic last year. I caught the wave and started falling, imagining the moment I would go underwater guessing Oh my God, here arrives hell, she says of her first experience.
Surfing fanatics are drawn to the stunning sceneries despite the freeze temperatures Photograph: Anna Gavrilova/ Moscow Times
During winter, the water measures around 2C( 35 F) with an average air temperature of -1 5C, but both Tanachoyva and Morozov agree that the greatest obstacle in winter is not the cold but the absence of facilities.
When snow inters the road to the beach it can only be reached with a snowmobile, and a small beach-hut provides scant protection from the elements. Its pure torturing to put on a diving suit in the cold, Tanachyova said.
Sergei Rasshivayev, a professional surfer and head of the
Russian Surfing Federation, also believes that winter surfing is the most interesting direction the sport has taken.
Its a great route 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 explains.
Could wintertime surfing be the next frontier for the athletic? Photo: Moscow Times
He has been to Kamchatka several times to surf. When I first went there, the beauty of the place literally took my breath away, he says.
Rasshivayev, who also founded Surfholidays a worldwide network of surf schools believes Kamchatka depicts promise despite its remote locating.
I think there is potential, and its quite significant. Kamchatka requires modernization, thats true, but its not entirely shabby either, he said.
Morozov told potential does not even begin to cover it.
I study many things about surfing climate, sceneries, weather conditions, gales, streams, and Im positive there are many amazing places for surfing in Kamchatka that simply have not yet been discovered. But at some phase we will, he says.
A version of such articles first appeared in The Moscow Times