Back in the 1960s, when our family headed to the beaches of the Atlantic coast or Florida, everyone wanted to be a surfer. Even our parents secretly envisioned themselves living that "carefree and fun" lifestyle. At the seaside, on TV, and in the movies, Americans were fascinated with the stereotype. Surfers were a special type of hero, you see, representative of fearless thrill-seeking, in the midst of humdrum everyday life. But that was then, an in places like Malibu, Waikiki, and off some barrier reef down under in Australia. We have never imagined that Russia might one day come to represent a kind of essence of surf culture. Boy, did we miss out!
"Surfing's the source. Can change your life. Swear to God." - The Surf Shop Kid in Point Break
This week, Our Russia had the opportunity to speak with Sergey Rasshivaev, the head of Russia’s first surfing school La Preciosa, and the CEO of Surfholidays.ru. A pioneer of surfing some of the most remote breaks in the world, Sergey is an archetype of sorts, a man through whom we can revisit what surfing culture was always supposed to be about. In our talk, Sergey helped transport this writer back to that world where adventurous souls were searching for an endless sunrise beyond the tip current off Kamchatka.
Our Russia: Young enthusiasts out there will want to know, Sergey, when did you first get inspired to take up surfing?
Sergey: My inspiration first came from the movie Point Break. I remember I was the 8 years old back then, and this was the first time most Russians knew the world of surfing even existed. For us, dreaming of becoming an astronaut like Gagarin seemed more likely than pursuing a life surfing. Still, I thought a lot about this unimaginable world, but it was not until I turned 23, that I first ventured to Algarve in Portugal. It was a surf camp there that made me decide to change my life, and to start surfing. I came back home to Russia, quit my job, and began to think of how I would survive living my new life.
Our Russia: What is your most vivid memory from those early days looking for Russian breaks?
Sergey: At first, my experience was a bit unreal. A friend showed me the waves in the Black Sea, and told me he thought they were surfable. I had serious doubts at first, but, as my knowledge progressed, I realized surfing in Russia was indeed possible.
Our Russia: Mariah Ernst of Surfer’s Journal profiled you recently as “typically adventurous”, or what I would call “the quintessential surfer.” Given you have paid your dues being “hungry” and so forth, how important is it to be so dedicated to the sport?
Sergey: Well I am not sure about this, except to say, it is normal to be “hungry” for what you love, and for what you need. Staying hungry, literally and metaphorically, has helped me to grow as a surfer, as well as living my life.
Our Russia: Can you tell us about awards and competitions Sergey?
Sergey: I have won several national awards so far, though I do not really measure success like most people. My most memorable one, a heat victory at the ISA World Surfing Games, was a major step for me. I actually became the first Russian to win at this level.
Our Russia: As we’ve said, you are head of the first surfing school in Russia, Sergey. Can you please tell us a bit about your effort there, and about your promising students?
Sergey: I have worked at La Preciosa for several years now, but my work is more administrative than in the past. Since 2009, I have trained quite a few students who were absolute beginners, and are now quite good on small boards. These guys travel around the world to wonderful places like the Dominican Republic. These surfers also take part in Russian competitions, so helping them to enjoy the lifestyle and the sport is very meaningful to me.
Our Russia: In your opinion, how does surfing in Russia compare with more famous destinations like Hawaii, Australia, Portugal, and some others?
Sergey: All these destinations are quite different. I have surfed all the oceans, even in the Arctic, and each has its own character and distinctive beauty. I do not make typical comparisons, but so often people do. Russia, I think, is a bit like Canada, Norway, North Europe, Chile, you know, all the cold places.
Our Russia: As CEO of SurfHolidays.ru can you share feedback from surfers you’ve helped discover Russia’s best experiences? Do you have favorite breaks in Russia? Where do all the experts hang out?
Sergey: Usually people are stoked about surfing in Russia. Many, like me, never expected to surf the waves of my homeland. As a special note here, our motto at Surf Holidays is “Caution! Surfing is addictive!” This is reflected in what clients tell us about the experience. Surfing, progressing in the knowledge, this makes people happy. As for my favorite place, it’s Kamchatka for sure. Here, the ocean is so beautiful and majestic, the nature is breathtaking, absolutely. My home break at Flotskiy in Saint-Petersburg is a favorite too. The waves are pretty bad, but if know how to surf them, it's so much fun. Plus, this is my home.
Our Russia: What is your best advice for visitors intent on a great surfing adventure in Russia?
Sergey: Like everywhere, it’s best to take a local expert with you. This is a worry-free way to find the best places, and to really feel the vibe of Russia. A good example comes to mind from a few weeks ago. We had this Italian friend visit us, man was he ever stoked. Enthusiasm is great.
Our Russia: Some will want to know Sergey, what is it like to paddle out at sunrise, literally in the middle of nowhere? Can you describe the feeling of oneness some talk about from surf culture of the past?
Sergey: There’s nothing like it, the feeling is great. I like the beginning of the day. Everything runs off the start, so a brilliant beginning is important. At sunrise, just me and the ocean, this is iconic, the true beauty of surfing, and the simple happiness of life. It’s really indescribable, something one has to see, feel, hear, taste, and touch.
Our Russia: I ask everyone I interview on Our Russia about a fascinating concept unique to Russians, something called Твоя Воля (Your Volya). Can you tell us what this term means for you as a free spirited Russian?
Sergey: I never think we are the only nation to possess this idea. I believe many people have that Volya. It's simply extra motivation, no matter who or where you are from. I can tell you about me though. I have this feeling inside that I can do whatever is necessary, if I really need to. It is a powerful emotion, and a great motivational spirit.
More About Sergey:
A competitor in many Russian and international surfing competitions, Sergey has managed to ride the curls in all five Oceans. He's surfed in Australia, Vietnam, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Indonesia (Bali, Lombok, Java, Lembongan island), Spain, Italy, Canary Islands, Costa Rica, Maldives, Morocco, Mexico, Norway (the island lofontenskie, Ervik), United Arab Emirates, Panama, Peru, Portugal, USA (California, new York), France, Chile, Ecuador, and across Russia (St. Petersburg, Vladivostok, Kamchatka, Sochi, Kaliningrad, Murmansk). Sergey specialized in Oceanography at St. Petersburg State University, and has hobbies ranging from Surfing, free diving, fitness, and Kong fu, to skiing and skating, and more.