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Sochi: Olympics, Russia, Putin, rubble, AK-47, waves... WAVES???

February 12, 2014

Fact: The the Black Sea is home to nearly 7.6 million coastal inhabitants. That’s the population of Los Angeles and San Diego combined. Yet, you won’t hardly find a wave ridden along the entire coast of the Black Sea.If there’s one thing that’s been gossiped about more than the Sochi Olympics, it’s Sochi, Russia and Vladimir Putin. Unfortunately, this gives Sochi and it’s surrounding towns a bad rap. I came across an article showing a photo of a wind-blown yet surfable Sochi coast with a slew of right-handers marching down the coast.

WHAT? There’re waves in Sochi? The Black Sea? Russia? Get outa town! When I think of anything Russia, I think cold war, I mean extremely cold, Siberia, tanks, the Kremlin, the Ak-47, WWI +II, concrete rubble, “Enemy at the Gates”, etc. I don’t think surfing. Once I saw that row of waves, I googled it and found all kinds of good waves working their way out of the woodworks.

The article asked “Should surfing be in the Olympics?” While a short debate ensued and concluded in a stalemate, one fact remained equally interesting to the both of us… “There’s surfing in Sochi?…… NICE!” Why should we care about surfing in Sochi? Because every surfer wants a place, a wave, that they can escape to when the world around them seems out of place. Sochi is proof that the beauty of nature can shine brighter than any human creation, no matter how grand. Show me Versailles, I’ll show you Pipeline, I win… So I had to ask… What’s it like surfing in the Black Sea? Russia?

First, most compare the Black Sea to the Great Lakes. The comparisons stop there. The Black Sea is TEN TIMES the size of Lake Superior and nearly 8 times deeper, whoa! It is the drainage basin for nearly a third of Europe’s landmass. The water dips to nearly 45F in the winter months but can be a cozy summer getaway for Russians visiting from the east as the water temp rises to nearly 80F. Pick your session wisely as winter months typically bring larger swells.

Waves are wind-driven. The ability of a body of water to turn wind into swells depends on it’s fetch (distance energy can travel). The longer the fetch, the more energy there is in the swells created. The Black Sea is somewhat limited in fetch. It may not be large enough to get massive waves, but if you get the right conditions, a storm can send waves into a calm coastline creating the perfect rippable wave.

While Sochi is a newly recognized surf region along the Black Sea, Bulgaria has a budding surf scene. It turns out that a half dozen nations share it’s coastline and all of them have some form of surf scene even if it’s just one guy and a McDonald’s food tray for a handplane. In fact, the Black Sea is home to nearly 7.6 million Inhabitants. That’s twice the population of Los Angeles… and there’s a LOT of people in L.A.

Back to Russia and surfing. Where else do Russians surf? Honestly, there isn’t much info out there on Russian surfers, however, we know that Tom Curren has been quietly visiting the Kamchatka Peninsula for years. Lately, other standouts have collaborated on surf missions to Russia’s forbidden Peninsula with limited, yet incredible success.

All in all, Russia is a mysterious gypsy wink of a surf destination with many undiscovered gems to be found… or not. While millions of uber-groms crawl over each other at rapidly-crowding boat trip destinations, waiting in line for that $6000 wave, countless waves go unridden and undiscovered across the globe. Be a wolf, not a sheep!

Back to the debate over The Olympics being worthy of surfing as an event… how could we even go about that in the first place? Here’s a thought… The Wavegarden…


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