Surfing the Russian winds

Slowly, the old Soviet resorts on Russia’s Black Sea coast are becoming centers of sporting excellence. It is hoped that with the right support, this region could become a major water sports destination.

­The Black Sea waters full of jellyfish, the sea full of waves – and the wind whips the air with salty spray, which is just what everyone has come here for. Throughout the week, hundreds of children and adults have been competing in the Black Sea Cup windsurfing trophy in southern Russia. As RT’s Tom Barton reports, they have traveled from all over Russia to show off their skills and share in the growing water sports experience here.

Anton Shelikov, a professional windsurfer and Russia’s current number two, has already skimmed the waves in European competitions.

“When you’re riding your board at top speed your feelings soar,” he says.

“You have control of two forces of nature in your hands – wind and water.”

Anton Shelikov is a professional windsurfer and Russia’s current number two
Anton Shelikov is a professional windsurfer and Russia’s current number two

­But the sport is not cheap, and Shelikov is short of the kind of financial backing enjoyed by his European and American competitors. He is eager to see the Black Sea coast’s potential as a world-class water sports center fulfilled. He argues that this is a wonderful place with great wind.  

“The infrastructure is OK, but with some investment it could be good. We held a freestyle competition here not long ago and we have hopes of hosting a world championship,” enthuses the sportsman.

The rather more tricky sport of kite-surfing also has its followers with sportsmen here battling it out to prove their speed and agility.

Sergey Borisov, who has been crowned number one in Russia, says it is an adrenaline-fuelled sport.  

“That’s what it’s all about – tricks and a lot of adrenaline. Now it’s easier, but to master a trick you have to fall 100 times.”

The Black Sea provides good conditions for kite-surfing too – it is a difficult sport to master, with many of these young riders taking years to reach this standard.

“We have a number of good spots for riding – this wonderful bay, and on the other side, the Black Sea as well,” explains Andrey Khitrovo from the Kite Surfing Committee. “Here in Russia the season is short, so we don’t have much practice time on the water. But the advantage of Russia is that we also can snow-kite.”

Andrey Khitrovo believes young people are the life-blood of the sport, and hopes more will come on board.  

“In 10 years, I want to see hundreds of kids kiting here. Then we’ll be in good hands. We’ll have a future.”

Again, it is money that is the problem for most kite surfers. Now, however, it is on the way to joining the growing list of Olympic sports – a move which will raise the profile of what is still a fledgling pursuit in Russia.