Taming The Black Sea w. Olya Raskina

Anapa. Situated in the North of the Black Sea, this small town sits on a small outcrop reaching towards Europe. One of the southern most points of Russia this wouldn’t be the most obvious choice for big wave sailing but when Olya Raskina released her video from the spot we had to find out more. Not just more on the location but more on why she chose to go there and how she survived the perils of this heavy real world break.

It was the time when we were all kids, basically, young and careless, when Andre Paskowski would get totally wasted and be carried home by a few ladies, something like that.

First a re-cap on the video, so if you missed it check it out below, otherwise just keep on scrolling down to read more from perhaps the only female windsurfer in the world who is charging big waves right now.

Photos: Kirill Umrikhin

Over to Olya…

I had been looking forward to sailing in Anapa since 2006 already, when I first travelled there to watch, and possibly, take part in EFPT “Black Sea Cup”. All my Russian windsurfing friends were competing there, as well as a lot of other top European freestylers I had met in Dahab. It was such a great event – very friendly people, parties every single night in a massive tent right on the beach, music, a big crowd of people curious about this crazy sport of windsurfing, and, like it often happens at big events, very little wind. It was the time when we were all kids, basically, young and careless, when Andre Paskowski would get totally wasted and be carried home by a few ladies, something like that.

It all sounded really sketchy and I wasn’t sure if I will ever give it a go.

These were absolutely wild days. Like I said, the wind was really light and it wasn’t enough to finish event. Then I came back to Anapa again, a few years later, in 2008 and 2009, I think, but same story – very little wind and no freestyle competition. We had the Russian Back Sea Cup these years – a slalom, RSX, kids race, and a freestyle event. I was wondering when the spot actually worked. At the windsurf centre “Anapa Surfing” I saw many old pictures of some decent waves and the guys jumping. I talked to the local boys and they told me that winter was the time to come. Real Russian winter – November, December, January, perhaps, even Feb’ but then it might be snowing as well. They said that it was so cold in the winter that they could only sail for maximum half an hour and then they ran to the sauna at the windsurf centre and stayed there for an hour to defreeze. It all sounded really sketchy and I wasn’t sure if I will ever give it a go.

We decided to fly to Anapa … I haven’t been there since 2009. What we saw in Anapa in October 2014 was devastating

When Red Bull asked me last year where I would like to sail in Russia, the first spot that came to my mind was Anapa. I remembered this place bustling with life – a lot of windsurf clubs for kids there, a big yacht centre, “Anapa surfing” windsurf centre and a mystical storm that comes every winter. We decided to fly to Anapa with my RB team manager Roman and a cameraman Alexey to talk to the local boys and check the place again. I haven’t been there since 2009. What we saw in Anapa in October 2014 was devastating. All the kids windsurf centres were closed, the yacht club shut down, many health centres along the coast line closed. All this land was taken by the local authorities where they built a few private elite apartment blocks. Windsurfing was literally erased from the surface there and the only place that survived was Anapa surfing windsurf club. I was shocked and depressed. These massive ugly apartment blocks were everywhere along the beach with “no tresspassing” signs. The only paradise was our windsurf centre there with a little private beach. We talked to the owner of Anapa Surfing about how they managed to stand their ground and protect their place. “Ah, that was easy” Andrey Gryazev, or “Papa” like his friends call him, told us “we were once teaching windsurfing to the Russian Minister of Defence and his family, so when those people came to take our land, we gave him a call and no one touched our windsurf centre any more”. Everything is about connections in Russia. We were so happy that our windsurf centre survived. It is a two floor building with sauna, kitchen, windsurf rental, windsurf storage, toilet, shower and a big lounge with a fire place on the first floor and a big open terrace with a little bedroom for the staff who look after the windsurf centre at night. “We are trying to get a license now for fishing. We bought a boat and, well, we have to make ends meet somehow, so when we get a licence we’ll fish and dry it here, on the second floor, as well” – Juri who’s been working there for 15 years told us.

I really admire the locals in Anapa, once they learned how to windsurf they just stayed at the centre and worked there. Papa gave shelter to everyone who was in need. A lot of guys moved to Dahab or Bali later on, but originally everyone learned how to windsurf and lived in Anapa for a while. For me it’s a magical place with a lot of memories. Anapa is a beautiful little town with a lot of people who have no idea what windsurfing is about. But when the wind blows, this little place comes to life and a small parking lot in front of Anapa Surfing is full of cars who drove from Rostov-na-Donu, Krasnodar or even Moscow.

We spoke to the boys at Anapa Surfing centre and they told us that we should be ready to come back any time this winter. If they see something decent coming up, they will give us a call. So we flew back to Moscow and started waiting. At the airport I asked how much they will charge for the board bag and it turned out to be around 250 euros one way. That put me off completely, so I decided to drive to Anapa in case we managed to get good conditions. It’s around 1400km from Moscow to our spot in Anapa which means roughly 15-16h drive if we go fast. I was checking the forecast every week and sometimes in the middle of December I had a feeling that there was something coming up. I called the boys at the centre there and they told me that the forecast looked really risky, cos the wind direction only looked good for the 3rd day of the storm when the swell dropped. The first 2 days looked windy but not the correct direction. I couldn’t wait any more because it was getting so cold already in Moscow, around -10 degrees. We decided to give it a go with my boyfriend, a professional photographer Kirill Umrikhin, and drive there with my car. The RB film crew was going to fly and meet us there. So we took off very early in the morning and arrived to Anapa around 10pm to find that the storm already started – it was raining and blowing pretty hard. In the morning we all met at the windsurf centre and waited for Papa, the owner, to arrive. I haven’t seen a storm in Anapa before and it looked really impressive – big waves, a lot of white wash, gusty wind and pouring rain. Eventually that turned out to be our main problem.

On the first day of the storm the rain hasn’t stopped for 5 minutes. It was literally raining cats and dogs, everything wet and felt pretty cold as well. The local boys said that the conditions today wouldn’t get any better and that the wind direction wasn’t quite the right one. However, I really wanted to try and Papa said he’ll go out as well. He rigged and went out first and then I followed him. It took me quite a long time to put my hooded 5mm Roxy wetsuit on, booties and to rig on the ground with the wind ripping the gear off my hands. The boys told me to go fully overpowered, because the waves were blocking the wind. So I went out on a Combat 3.7 and a Radical Quad 68 litre. What I saw when I got out there were these the massive 5-6 meter wind waves that were coming from far and rolling along the beach together with the wind. I took a few waves and went down the line but there at the bottom the wind was totally gone and the 2-meter white wash was breaking solidly. The conditions were not really ridable, the wind direction just wasn’t right. Moreover, the rain was so annoying, it felt like someone slapping your face with cold towel the whole time. I sailed for about 20min until my hands were so frozen, I could hardly hold the boom. I went back in straight to the sauna. The boys told me to put my hands into the bucket of hot water to get the feeling again. It helped and after another 10 minutes I went back out. I was sailing back and forth looking for a nice ramp to jump. Every 15-20 min I had to sail back in to stay warm. The rain was getting stronger, so I decided to go one last time and then wait for better conditions the next days. I had my run and was sailing back to the beach when I saw this wave breaking right in front of me. I went downwind with its white wash but lost the wind in my sail, so when the next wave broke on me, I just let the gear go. When I surfaced, the gear was nowhere to be seen. I thought that it was probably far downwind so I just started to swim in this direction. Soon I saw my board upside down drifting away from me. I was swimming for quite a while but the gear was in front and the waves were pushing it downwind pretty fast…

…I just swam along the beach downwind hoping that soon I’ll get it again. I couldn’t see if  So my plan was trying to reach the gear and then swim back to the beach in case something was broken. It turned out to be harder than I thought because the current was really strong, pushing me along the beach and not letting me come closer to the beach at all. So when I finally reached my gear and found that nothing was broken, I sailed back to the shore and had a nice walk back. I was lucky to sail back just before the big port with massive ships and sharp rocky piers.

The next day the wind dropped completely and the day after the wind direction changed. The spot was totally different with a really fun head high wave, the sun shining and a lot of other windsurfers joining for the session. We all had such a blast. We sailed for at least 3-4 hours, it was a perfect little waves for jumping and wave riding. It also got a lot warmer, around 10 degrees then and, of course, no rain. Fantastic atmosphere and a lot of friends who I haven’t seen for years sailing together. I was out until it started to get dark and then we had to quickly pack up and start driving back home to Moscow because Kirill had to go to work the next day. 16 hours driving later and we were back in town.

I really hope that we’ll have some more stormy days in Anapa again soon and I’m looking forward to heading back there again. It has so much potential and I’m sure that every storm is different. I just hope that it won’t be so cold and raining again. When it’s sunny there, this place is a small paradise in the middle of wretched Anapa or, perhaps, a wretched mother Russia.

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