Plunging into the depths of a particularly frigid Russian winter may not be top of everyone's surfing bucket list. But if it's a land of snow, fire, mountains and crumbling brutalist architecture you're looking for, then the Kamchatka peninsula in the country's far east, may just awaken a kink you never knew you had.
Uri Magnus has been to the frozen east twice. His first trip, an assignment to photograph the bears who dominate the landscape. The second was during winter (when those giants are all tucked up til spring) to seek out long-peeling points in – 15 degree C weather.
“It's the kingdom of longboards,” Uri tells MSW. And looking at all he snapped throughout, you can see why. Those mellow, crisp waves running off volcanic black shores, a converted 4x4 to tackle extreme conditions – it's an experience that plucks at the imagination.
Anyway, here's a few words from Uri about the trip (and bears).
Tell us a bit about the trip? What made you want to go to Kamchatka?
This is the second time I've visited Kamchatka. The last time was two-years-ago. I met Anton Morozov, owner of the campsite and surf school called Snow Wave Kamchatka. We became good friends and I decided to spend a winter out there adventuring.
In February, the average temperatures are between -10 degrees C and - 15 out of water. The water temp's about 0 to 3 degrees. Luckily, I had a 6.5mm wetsuit.
Kamchatka is one of the wildest and most beautiful places in the world. Almost all the beaches have never been surfed because the only way to reach them is by helicopter.
It's a fascinating and surprising place, you know, I came with no expectations about the waves – I think that's important because trips such as these always leave a strong experience, even if the waves aren't great. The surrounding nature and the experience of being alone in the water can't be found in many places.
So, Kamchatka is known for its bears – did you go in the winter? Because they're hibernating then...
Yep, that's it. Bears sleep in the winter, they begin to wake up in spring around April to May.
How were the waves?
The waves were amazing. I think Kamchatka is the longboard kingdom. Weather was sunny and very cold. Winter wind most of the time is off shore. The only difficulty is that the wind reaches 15+ knots - when you come out of the water you can see ice sticking to your wetsuit.
How did you prepare for this trip?
This kind of trip definitely requires preparation in advance. You need to bring warm clothing, good wetsuit, hat, gloves and 7mm boots. Winter accommodation is in the city of Petropavlovsky which is an hour's drive to the nearest beach.
Any other beach you wish to reach is a 4x4 mission if you are lucky, or if you have the money then a helicopter. If you are planning to photograph and document the trip as I did, it is also important to know that the cold affects the equipment and keep the batteries warm and bring appropriate protection for the cameras.