Russia explores the world-class surf spots of Kuril Islands

April 18, 2021 | Surfing
Kuril Islands: a surfing paradise in Russia | Photo: Sergei Zhukovskiy

The Kuril Islands are often known for being a travel destination for romantics and explorers.

But the truth is that not every person knows exactly where the Kuril Islands are located, so we have decided to embark on an expedition to tell everyone in the world about our treasure.

The Russian Surfing Federation (RSF) has many similar-minded people on their team.

Surf training in Russia began a few years ago when the sport reached an Olympic level.

Seven years ago, it was hard to imagine that surfing would be supported at the highest governmental level.

But romantic and crazy adventurers change the world.

So Russian surfers Andrey Knaus, Sergey Zhukovskiy, and Tatiana Dudova started working closely with the Russian Ministry of Sport and the Russian National Olympic Committee.

In four years, more than 20 events and national championships were held, and more than six public festivals took place all over the central part of Russia.

Simultaneously, we sealed the deal with a famous Portuguese surf coach and set up several training camps for the national team.

Russia became an active member of the European Surfing Federation (ESF) and developed fruitful relations with the International Surfing Association (ISA) by taking part in almost all international competitions.

Russia: believe it or not, it's a nation with world-class waves | Photo: RSF

The Search for the Russian Surfing Capital

The dream of developing a national surfing team has become a long-lasting goal for the sport in the country.

It is a dream to find regular ocean waves on the Russian shores.

This dream guided us during the Covid-19 pandemic, as we decided to try and find a place where we could organize a sustainable training strategy for the team before the start of the 2021 international surfing season.

We have many spots with ocean waves in our country, but most of them are of very difficult access. A good example is Commander Islands beaches.

Another relevant factor is that water temperature is around 2 °C in spring.

We also have other popular surf locations, such as the Kamchatka peninsula and the Sakhalin Island, and we plan to run different official events there during future seasons.

That's why we keep on searching.

When I was on private holidays in the Russian Far East last year, I realized that logistics are quite good and affordable there.

And you can walk from the hotel to the surf breaks without wasting time on transfers.

So, we decided to try and organize the first-ever surf training camp in Russia on Kuril's Kunashir Island.

We prepared this event for almost two months because the athletes needed all the necessary equipment.

Many national team members train in Russia all year round, so they are mentally ready for the cold water and freezing Russian spring weather.

Russia: you need a thick wetsuit to surf these waters | Photo: RSF

Uncertain Weather and Ocean Conditions

The problematic part of such trips is uncertainty.

"It was difficult for us to make predictions and analyze the forecast because we have never had professional surfers there," explains Sergey Zhukovskiy, the executive producer of Russian national surfing events.

"We've only had several dreamer-surfers, and the weather has always been unpredictable."

"Nevertheless, we were sure that the town by the Pacific Ocean shore had accommodation with a full meal package included. But that was all we knew."

"So, in other words, we set up an expedition because we were not able to even imagine what this trip would be like at all."

The pioneering Russian surf project included athletes from shortboard, longboard, and SUP disciplines.

"That provided us with full expertise, so we could confirm whether the location was suitable for developing our surfing," adds Andrey Knaus, the president of the Russian Surfing Federation.

Kunashir Island is the southernmost island of Kuril's archipelago.

"We predicted that this island would be one of the first getting Pacific swells like Hawaii on the other side of the Pacific Ocean."

"We believed that these waves could be suitable for the two-week training session at least several times during the trip, but the reality exceeded our expectations."

The wave conditions allowed us for a two-hour session, twice a day, and for 12 days. On three days, we had world-class waves.

"And picture this: there was no one except the six of us and a few curious seals nearby," adds Pedro Barbudo, the head coach of RSF.

"The potential of Kunashir island is incredible. We could not imagine the scale of it. The conditions are acceptable for everyday training procedures and beginners almost every day."

"Keep on searching for the Russian surf" became the motto of this exploratory trip.

Russia: the country is setting up a national surfing team and searching for a place for its training sessions | Photo: RSF

Plenty of Surf in Uncrowded Line-Ups

During their free time, Russian wave riders explored more than 30 different surf spots, 20 of which located within a one-hour driving distance of Yuzhno-Kurilsk.

Other surf breaks were available and could be explored near the hotel.

There was also an opportunity to visit and check the conditions on Shikotan Island, which is only 80 kilometers away from Kunashir.

Conditions there are really different from Kunashir, but it should be more interesting to explore them during the summertime because this island is very friendly and has no dangerous wildlife.

It is very important to stress that during the summer season, the water temperature in the Pacific Ocean is around 16-18 °C, and the air temperature is over 20 °C.

That makes surfing even more attractive because there are not many places in the world with uncrowded line-ups like these ones.

The exploratory mission was a success.

The athletes trained a lot, and the inconveniences of cold water were compensated by the number of waves and the intensity of the training sessions.

The team included surfers Sergey Mysovsky, Evgeniy Isakov, Max Fomin, Mitya Ilyasov, Mayi Rudik, and Elena Prokhorova.

Russian surfing team: preparing the country for the Olympic Games | Photo: RSF

Developing a Russian Surfing Scene

The experience exponentially increased the overall technical level of athletes, and everybody left dreaming of developing and setting up a Russian surf industry.

"It is crucial to have surfboards, leashes, wax, fins, and wetsuits produced in Russia," notes Maxim Fomin, a longboarder of the Russian national surfing team.

But the other goal of the expedition was to find a place where the training headquarters could be installed in the future.

In the meantime, it is vital to attract the future generation right now.

We need to inspire and tell children that the Olympic dreams are not only in hockey and winter sports but also in surfing.

For us, the mission of fighting for clean oceans and respecting Nature is critical, and through surfing, children can now embrace these priorities into their lives.

The creation of Russia's first surfing center supported by different governing authorities, such as the regional ministry of sport and local towns, will change the image and tourism of the region.

Traveling, surfing, and exploring broaden people's horizons, and our mission is to make our country and people a little bit better.

We will continue promoting education and culture through surfing across our country and abroad.


Words by Tatiana Dudova | Director at Russian Surfing Federation

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