Each trip and episode demands a lot of work and preparation. It also means ideas and plans that we realize at the end. However the dream about distant Kuril islands has always had special significance and place in the list of our trips. If you are familiar with applied oceanography, you should probably know that the best potential for waves in Russia is on the Kuril Islands. Not every person gets a chance to visit this place and that is why such journey is so attractive.
More than two years of planning, researching and finding relevant information went into this trip.
During this time we even managed to make some arrangements and to put a surf spot on the map of MSW website. Right after that we could see that waves on Kuril islands are twice as big as in Kamchatka at any given time. Our expectations skyrocketed.
This time our team was rather large. 13 people decided to go on the trip. We chose to go to Iturup island – the largest of the Kuril Islands. In order to get there from Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk we had to take a ferry across which took more than 20 hours.
We were only given one chance by the island to step our foot on the ground.
Had we arrived 12 hours later we would not have been able to enter the harbor due to two approaching typhoons from Japan – Kilo and Etau one of which headed straight at Iturup island.
Because of its strength we could not stay in our camp by the beach and had to evacuate further inland. Next morning we went to the beach to check the damage and were shocked to see large pieces of wood and rocks thrown not only around the beach by also onto the road which was more that 20 meters away from the beach. It was had to imagine what happened here last night. Times like these make you respect the ocean and our nature more than ever before.
Our luck ended here.
Instead of expected perfect linesups we had to fight the currents and strong onshores.
All the waves just could not meet our expectations. Right after the typhoon the ocean took a break and we used this opportunity to travel around the island. The island is full of beautiful places and phenomenas. On one hand its a shame that not many people get to see the nature of such beauty on the other it felt great to be the selected ones that got this opportunity and privilege.
A nice surprise to us was ocean’s water temperature that reached 14 degrees. This allowed many of us to surf in 4/3mm wetsuits. Fresh water lake situated right next to our camp was a bonus. Right after each session we had a chance to rinse our suits and take a fresh bath. The only thing was that we tried not to wonder around by ourselves as
each morning we discovered bear footprints and that made us a bit nervous
bearing in mind the fact that this year there was not much fish in the rives for bears to feed in. In the end we did not encounter any face to face meetings with the wild animal. They are smart too and chose to walk around our camp. We did not mind that at all.
Two weeks spent in full isolation from civilisation felt great. The head got cleared from all sorts of thoughts and the only things we cared about was right there surrounding us.
We had no ideas was was happening in the world and did not have any news about our families.
Everything got locked into a small world surrounding our camp on the beach of Kasatka bay. Iturup, just like all other Kuril islands is volcanic-based which means that it has active geothermal areas covering it. We got several chances to visit such places and swim in hot water baths. These were the only times we could take hot water baths. We also went into sulfur and radon baths. It felt so great especially when you live in a soaking wet from the rain tent.
Living in tents was quite an unusual and interesting experience. Those who had snoring tent buddies would probably argue. At times the girls would freeze thinking that it could be the bear walking around and making such noises.
Boiled water turned into hard currency after the first few days and was the most wanted thing in our camp.
We realised that got so spoiled by only having to press a button and wait a minutes for boiled water when at home. Here on the island this process turned into a complex combination of actions and lots of patience.
Our habits have slowly started to chanпe and we had to adopt to the situation forgetting about our wants and needs. Luckily we did not have any vegetarians among us otherwise he or she would have starved to death.
People ate whatever was on the table and the diet was the word that did not exist.
Lonely wonders to the toilet were only safe during the day. Even then we had to carry with us all sorts of ammunition. Flares, firecrackers and gas sprays became our regular companion. The most exiting thing was to get out of your tent in the middle of night under poring rain to go to the toilet. It was so exhausting, lazy and simply dangerous. Thoughts of waking up your follow tent buddy that was tight sleep in his sleeping bag probably dreaming on Hawaii was nearly as dangerous.
The king of movie rentals was our camera operator Elisey. He was the only one smart enough to bring with him downloaded movie library. The rest of us probably hoped to stream the movies online. Every evening after winning a fight to the power socket that was feeded by an electricity generator and charging up our gear everyone disappeared to their tents to watch shared by Elisey movies. Next day sometimes we had hot debates about the movie we watched at night.
The luckiest one of us and you know this might be (Elisey) managed to get online even in his tent.
No matter how hard we have tried no one managed to connect to the internet.
Elisey must have some sort of received inside him. He did not share much news with us but after few days we accepted the fact that no one has internet apart from him.
One would assume that such harsh and isolated place would be a home to unwelcoming and scary people however in reality this assumption was not even close. All people were kind and humble. All those that did not fit into the environment left the island long ago. The rest love their home and look happy. As a rule dogs are a good gauge of environment they live it and Iturup was full of friendly dogs which is a good sign.
Nearly every surf place we go to in Russia we meet ilitary people. They are our regular companion in places where our country ends and meets the waves. Trip to Kurils was not different where we again were very close to the defenders of our motherland. They warned us about the potential tsunami that could come after recent earthquake that happened in Chillie and started to evacuate people and equipment. We decided to stay in our camp and that was the right decision as tsunami never came.
The main goal of our trip was to find waves on the island. We traveled from one side of the island to the other. We cant say that we have not found them as we surfed nearly every day. The thing that troubled us was the quality of the waves. Time was on our side as we came for two weeks and were were patiently waiting for joule to show.
The miracle happened on our last day. The island decided it was enough testing us and showed us its treasure. Everything turned right, the swell, the wind and on top of that good weather. We finally surfed the wave we were hoping to find here. The emotions we went through were off the scale. That is the feeling we were long waiting for that is worth living for.
Before we thought that waves in Kamchatka are the best. That makes sense as that was the only place in Russia where we surfing in pacific ocean. The down thing to Kamchatka is that its all about beach breaks. Kuril islands have treated us to a point break that we have been looking for. We can safely say that this is a new chapter of surfing in Russia.
Getting back home was not as authentic as getting to Kuril islands. We took the flight back to Sakhalin where Kuril islands have reminded us of its character. Luckily we took off safely in difficult weather conditions. The small plane managed to fit all of our surfboards and filming gear. Special greetings «Welcoming surfers that came to find waves on Kurils» from the captain was the cherry on the cake of our great trip to the islands.