Surfing in the Pacific Ocean as a Lifestyle
The end of the earth, amazing nature, huge Pacific waves — it's not just visitors from other Russian regions that come to surf in Kamchatka, but frequently foreigners too. It seems nature itself created ideal conditions for high-quality, professional surfing: good waves, sandy beaches. Not everything is that simple though. As for many other sports, Kamchatka lacks the infrastructure for surfing and there are few local residents who are truly fans of riding the waves. However, surfing, a hobby known to Europeans since the 18th century, has been gaining momentum in Kamchatka. Entrepreneur Taras Sharyga, who is developing an extreme sports business opened a Quiksilver surfing school last year on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. He told us about how this sport is progressing on the peninsula.
– Taras, how were you first introduced to surfing, how did you discover your passion?
– About 12 years ago I tried surfing and immediately understood that it is ideal for recreation and tourism. Once, I went to Morocco on holiday and wanted to try surfing there. I met a very well-known local surfer Bob on the beach there. His photo was even displayed at the local airport. Bob told me that he used to study in Russia and his girlfriend was Russian. I had come to just try surfing, and he introduced me to his friends and fully immersed me in the atmosphere of the sport. Also, the ocean always involves deeply immersing yourself into nature. I liked everything a lot; that was probably then when my passionate interest was born.
– How is surfing doing in Kamchatka? What are its prospects?
– I have been involved in different extreme sports for many years and the issue of development is a complicated one. Our infrastructure is obviously insufficient to clearly determine its perspectives. Kamchatka is a winter region, the summer surfing season is short. If you luck out with the weather, it lasts from mid-June to mid-September. But this year, for example, the beginning of summer was cold and the season shifted. This is probably the main and only negative factor that affects the development of the surfing culture in these parts. There are few surfing enthusiasts in Kamchatka at present. There are not even hundreds, just dozens of people. But we are the only region in Russia where we can fully develop surfing, and the only place in the country that has the Pacific Ocean. The conditions are perfect for surfing.
– What goals do you set when surfing in Kamchatka, regarding developing the sport?
– In all projects that I launch, one of my primary goals is to show the young residents of Kamchatka an alternative life they can think and dream about outside of the territory. We always want to give them the opportunity to have a cool hobby, something that cannot be found anywhere else in Russia. Where surfing is concerned, Russia only has Sochi, St. Petersburg, and Vladivostok. But those places have sea surfing, the waves are different. As for environmental quality, there is no better spot in the whole of Russia that can compare to Kamchatka. Therefore, in general, I foresee great perspectives for the development of the sport here but it is likely happen on a large scale, spearheaded by people who come here as tourists.
– What can be done to attract people to this sport?
– Tourists are generally interested in Kamchatka as a region and a lot of people who enjoy surfing want to try riding the waves here. But frequently it is a one off trip. People come, surf, and return home. It's all about exoticism — an opportunity to try their hand at surfing in cold water. Many Kamchatka locals are afraid of the ocean; some of them who were born on the peninsula have never visited it even once. We do every thing we can to attract people. Last year, we launched a project called Go Surfing, where we offered every willing Kamchatka local the chance to try surfing free of charge. We had a lot of interested people, over 300 came. The goal was to simply attract people and we witnessed enormous interest among residents of Kamchatka. Many of them just wanted to try something new but there were those who have now fallen in love with the ocean and surfing. Both groups are happy. It was cool!
– Why did you choose the Quiksilver brand for your school?
– Our company had been representing this brand in Kamchatka for four years already. Quiksilver is the largest extreme sports company. These primarily include surfing and snowboarding. The idea of opening a proprietary school occurred a while ago. What's more, we include a strong ideological component in whatever we do in the business. I am talking about our goal of developing sports. So opening a school was an integral component of the business. We had been working to achieve this goal for several years, and it was hard work. It is not so simple to just get people out in the ocean. We needed to put in serious preparation work.
There are surf schools under the Quiksilver brand in many countries the world over. Ours is the first in Russia. We studied abroad and borrowed the experience of schools in Europe, superimposed it over our reality, and created everything on the shore of the Pacific Ocean from the ground up. It is possible that our experience would be useful for other regions of Russia.
– You launched the school last year. How successful is it, what are your plans?
– Last year, we launched a pilot project to understand what infrastructure level and scale of the project we would require. Because we need more than just the ocean and a surfboard. We need good conditions: somewhere to take a shower, drink some tea, spend some time in nature, spend the night. This year, we understood that our project needs to be more than just a surfing school. Because driving from Petropavlovsk to the ocean every day is too expensive. Accommodation is required and so we started building them. This year, we built a surf camp. We put up some teepees (Editor's note: cone-shaped tents) that have enough space for a double bed and are even heated. One of our major objectives is to make sure that everything we do on the ocean fits into our general concept that is guided by nature itself. Everything must be environmentally-friendly, beautiful and harmonious. Surfing as a lifestyle and as a sport is, first and foremost, a dialogue with nature. Therefore, the entire format of our camp must in keeping with what you can see all around.
– A surfing school is not just a board and the ocean; people are our priority. How is your situation with personnel?
– Our team is an important element of the project: our surf instructors, administrator, cook, assistants. About five people, all in all. They are not Kamchatka natives, they come from different regions. We offer them the opportunity not just to work but to travel as well; we teach them to surf if they don't know how. That way our concept turns into an engaged and strong project where people do more than just their jobs: they pass on their love for surfing to every newcomer. Next year, we plan to create the conditions to be able to accept more people. I believe that surfing lessons, the opportunity to live on the ocean shore, the energy and beauty of nature, our care and level of service mean we can be confident that surfing will become a promising sport in Kamchatka.
– Are you an active surfer; what is surfing for you personally?
– For me, surfing is more of a lifestyle. Therefore if you ask whether I surf and whether that also influence my lifestyle, I can definitely answer yes. As for surfing as a sport, you need to practice it daily and continuously learn in order to progress and achieve any results. In my case, I don't get out in the sea enough, I don't have enough time. But I have a huge desire to get on the board, and whenever I have the chance, I go to the ocean.