Russian Surf


Tima, the Russian surfer dude.

I remember the day I first stood up on a surfboard. I was very young, and so the memory as a whole is quite vague. But the moment that I felt for the first time what it was like to ride an unbroken wave I will never forget, and that moment is so clearly engraved into my memory, that to this day I can recall that moment and even feel the same excitement boil up within myself again.

The steps to surfing are easy. A complete beginner will begin by trying to lie down and floating on the board without falling of. Then it’s time to be pushed into the wave and to ride a foamie to the beach (which is what the wave is called after it has broken) The next step would be to paddle into a wave without the help of a push. And then to turn the board sideways after paddling into the wave and to ride the curl of the wave, so as to stay ahead of the broken (foamie) part of the wave and to ride it in a diagonal direction as opposed to simple straight out to the beach. Then you are surfing.

There are two distinct moments in the life of any surfer upon the day of initiation. (Their first surf) That moment when you are pushed into the wave for the first time and feel what it is like to ride a wave of energy travelling through a medium, in this case water. At this point in time they are still lying down, so the next moment of distinction comes when they stand up, however briefly, for the first time and experience the feeling of riding on top of a wave of energy, travelling through water, with a board underneath their feet.

I could clearly see that he felt it. Tima felt it when he got that smile on his face. He was so close to standing up, close enough that he tasted it and only wanted more. It took one or two tries to get there, to a place where you are not scared and ready to enjoy the moment, but when he first managed to ride the foamie with enough balance to get one foot and one knee up, then he didn’t want to stop.

I was not surfing, I was helping someone else to surf, but I was enjoying this as much as I have enjoyed some of the best surfing sessions I have had in years. When Tima turned around after his third wave I could see that we were going to be in the water for a while. His smile took me back to my childhood, to a time when I pursued the only thing that made any sense, the joy of riding massive concentrations of energy travelling at great speeds through water, shaped into peaks and peeling walls by the contours of the ocean floor at the shoreline, after journeys of often up to thousands of kilometres to reach their destination. But in reality I pursued it not because it made sense in this way, as a kid I had no idea where the waves I surfed came from, but I knew, I could feel, that this was a free art. It really is amazing, but every single wave is different from every single other one, and there will never again be another one like this.

Perhaps I surfed because the teachers and my parents and family and all kinds of other people who expected all kinds of things from me could not follow me into the water, and those that did follow me into the water did not bother me, because the ocean kept them busy and they were there for the same reasons I was.

Billabong is a huge surfing brand. They are sell-outs like any other commercial brand pretending to care about the integrity of the art they claim to represent while reaping profits, from everywhere and anywhere, sufficient profits to buy and own concepts, to convert art forms into adverts and to power corporate empires in their own right. But Billabong used to have a saying ‘Only a surfer knows the feeling’. It was written on every label of every Billabong shirt or other piece of clothing. It is no longer there. I am sure that they removed it after they realised that there is huge profits to be made from offering the brand as a way for people to associate themselves with the cool culture that has emerged around surfing and all its associations. Obviously the saying “Only a surfer knows the feeling” will only scare away potential customers who will, in this way, be so blatantly reminded that even while wearing the shirt they still miss a crucial component in their efforts to be as cool as a surfer. Because only a person that has ridden a wave knows what it feels like to ride a wave, and it is that feeling that makes surfers cool, laid back, chilled out and relaxed. There can be no rush, no stress, no fuss in riding a wave made by mother nature. You must be open to her and work with what she gives you. There is only the wave and what you choose to do with it. You can only accept it and be happy and try to have as much fun as possible riding this wave. But you cannot change mother nature, you can only wait for the next wave.

This takes patience, acceptance and an openness not at all unlike that of a child learning with spontaneous curiosity.

Only a surfer knows the feeling.

I don’t think only surfers know the feeling. There must be many other people who can identify with this, but surfing is one way.

A surfer knows the feeling and Tima was close enough to taste it. I do not know where he is now. Perhaps back in Saint Petersburg, working, perhaps travelling somewhere else. What I do know is that Tima will surf again. Everybody does after they have tasted something that they like this much.

Hermann Vivier

We are not offering you a service, but an experience, because we are not a travel company, but a company of travellers. We’ll take you to the best spots and provide all the equipment, but what you do, how you do it and with who, is entirely up to you.

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