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Surf’s up! – check out amazing surfing on Russia’s Far East Kamchatka peninsula

For some of the world’s best surfing, you have to travel to one of the most inhospitable but beautiful places on earth

Passing through Moscow, Victor (a business friend of mine) called to meet for a coffee having just returned from Kamchatka.

He was excited and pumped up from his trip to invest in aquaculture on that peninsula in Russia’s Far East. However, his biggest thrill (he is an adrenaline hound) was telling me about the amazing breakers he surfed there.

All I could say was “Victor, I can deal with skinny dipping through holes cut in the ice, that’s as traditional as caviar, but surfing in February?”

He was excited, it was a major high for him and he told me he couldn’t wait to try it in summer too, mainly since the gutsy women he met and surfed with would be splendid athletic sights in bikinis.

While some might say skiing and ice skating are Russian pastimes, I guess you can now add surfing as well.

For surfers, there is no finer rush than facing strong waves and thinking “Yup, no problems, I’ll ride that.” To the surfing aficionado there are several spots, which arguably are among the wildest and most challenging places on earth to catch a wave:

  • Banzai Pipeline. The Banzai Pipeline, Oahu, HI…
  • Praia do Norte, Portugal…
  • Shipstern Bluff, Australia…
  • Peahi, Hawaii…
  • Teahupo’o Reef, Tahiti…
  • Waimea Bay, Hawaii…
  • Cape Fear, Australia…
  • Dungeons at Hout Bay, South Africa…

And now of course:

  • Khalaktyrskii (pronounced Ha-lak-TIR-ski) Beach, Kamchatka, Russia
Sparsely populated Kamchatka is located in the far east of Russia

The Kamchatka Peninsula, just across the water from Alaska might seem like one of the least accessible and hospitable places on Earth. What with active volcanoes, black sand beaches, fresh air and chilly waters it may not be the first place that comes to mind when surf’s up.

There is even a surf shop on Khalaktyrskii Beach, black sand and surfboards with rows of colorful tents. During the summer months, the temperature at Khalaktyrskii hovers around 75F (23.8C), with the water temperature about 48F (8.9C), a bit cooler than a typical SoCal surf spot. In winter, it is appreciably chillier.

Russian surfing owes its origins to snowboarders who, after the fall of the USSR, tried surfing while traveling overseas and brought surfboards back home with them. Since the 1990s, surfing has taken root as far afield as St. Petersburg on the Baltic, on the Black Sea coast and around Vladivostok. The downside to those locales are that the waves are rather tame. Kamchatka however has a variety of challenging pacific born waves, including reef and point breaks.

Kamchatka surfing, catching clean crystal-clear waves with snowy volcanic peaks in the background is completely different. Off the main Kamchatka surfing spot on Khalaktyrsky beach the waves can get to 20 feet and more.

Instead of bikinis worn in the summer months, winter surfers wear diving wetsuits, gloves and boots to handle the cold water. If you want to try surfing in winter, you should invest the money for a high-quality thick wetsuit and other gear. The right equipment is key.

There is no doubt that Kamchatka surfing is for adrenaline junkies. Russian men and women who surf Kamchatka show the world that when you love something enough there are no obstacles to joy – not cold water, snow or even a shy mindset.

Paul Goncharoff is an American business executive working in Russia.

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