21 Aug 2019
Believe it or not, although Moscow is miles and miles away from the ocean, you can still learn to become a pro surfer! You many not get the same waves as you would somewhere in Bali or Portugal, but if you want to learn this sport - or rather lifestyle as many surfers would classify it - you can do it without leaving the Russian capital. And all this thanks to a group of surf enthusiasts as Surfway, with Denis Drogaikin at the helm. In Your Pocket sat down to talk to him how this activity is even possible in the Russian capital.

- Tell us a little about yourself. When did you get into surfing? What does surfing mean to you?
- Five years ago my friends and I went to Bali and that’s when I got into surfing. Before that I was always into extreme and non-extreme sports; I was really into snowboarding for 13 years before that. Before the trip I didn’t have too many expectations, I thought surfing would be just one way of keeping ourselves entertained. But when I tried it, I experienced emotions that I never got from any other sport, emotions that I didn’t even know were possible. Living in a huge city like Moscow, surfing is a way for me to reconnect with nature, be in harmony with it and conquer myself by conquering the waves.
- When did you get the idea to start Surfway? Was it easy to start up the business and get a good team together? What did you start off with and what services do you offer now?
- When I got back to Moscow I realized I was faced with a choice: finish up with everything I have going on in Moscow and move somewhere to the ocean where I can surf every day or stay in Moscow and train there. We’re lucky because in Moscow you have everything, the choice of activities is so large. Or so I thought. Having done research I came to the conclusion that when it comes to surfing, there really was not much on offer in Moscow. No courses, no schools, no instructors. So about half a year after I came back from Bali I realized that I would quit my job (I had a logistics business before that) and downshift. I consciously made the decision to make less money but do what I love doing and get great pleasure from it and that’s how I started the school Surfway. In the 4.5 years of the school’s existence we’ve tried and tested different methods, instructors, technologies and courses and more than 2,000 people have attended our courses! Some send us photos of their results out in the ocean. And now we also organize surf tours to places like Bali, Peru, Japan, Ireland, Portugal, Sri Lanka and many other amazing surf spots.
- It’s hard to imagine learning to surf in Moscow! Could you please tell us what that entails?
- As I mentioned, we tried many different methods. Our instructors spend a lot of time out in the ocean and then bring those techniques back. We’re also using a Japanese technique in our school at the moment. We have four different levels, starting from total beginners and finishing with those who go on surf trips 3-4 times per year and take it very seriously. We have special wave pools, we practice swimming and use special balance boards. We’ve got a lot of specialized equipment that allows us to work on technical aspects on land, as well as develop skills like balance and coordination. In the summer we further train these skills by wake surfing (a motorboat creates a small wave and we ride it).
- When did you start taking tour groups to Kamchatka and how popular is this destination for surfers when you have places like Bali, Sri Lanka, Portugal, etc.?
- I first had the idea of Kamchatka right after my very first surf experience in Bali. I love my country and at the end of the day can’t imagine my life away from the places and people I know, I was born and bred in Moscow, this is my home. Luckily I can do what I’m passionate about without leaving my home. Kamchatka is pretty exotic for Russians. Many dream about visiting it because it’s insanely beautiful but many people think it’s too expensive and dangerous. Organizing the first surf expedition there was tough, I won’t lie to you. But the first trip was a huge success, everyone loved it! So we vowed to do this trip annually in the summers and it is proving to be very popular amongst Russians. 
- What can you find in Kamchatka that you can’t find anywhere else?
- My approach to these surf trips is for them to not be only about surfing because we go to so many unique places – you need to see what else they offer and also get some rest because surfing everyday for 2-3 weeks would be too exhausting. So when we go to Kamchatka we also go fishing, chill in the thermal baths, hike up volcanoes, visit the valley of the geysers, tour Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky and so on. All this in one trip!
- Are there any other great surf spots in Russia?
- Over the years we’ve also been to places like Kaliningrad, St. Petersburg, Sochi, Vladivostok. They were all great but, of course, Kamchatka has the Pacific Ocean and you can’t beat the ocean’s waves. But even so, in the above mentioned places you can still get a pretty good sea wave, it just takes a bit more time and patience. But it’s an incredible experience to be in Russia and discover that you can actually surf here! Surfing is becoming increasingly popular in Russia, which is great. In the future we also want to check out the Kuril Islands and start taking surf tour groups there.
- Is there a piece of advice you would give those who want to try this sport?
- Surfing is not really a sport – it’s a lifestyle and it’s not about competing with others (like in many other sports), it’s about competing with yourself, conquering your fears and improving yourself. So my advice would be: if you have made the decision to start surfing, start preparing for it way before you find yourself in the ocean. If you don’t lead an active lifestyle and don’t do much sport, you won’t get the same kind of pleasure as a person who has prepared himself/herself physically. And when you finally end up out in the ocean, don’t worry about anyone else – focus solely on enjoying that feeling when you catch your first wave (and all the subsequent ones) and thank the heavens for being able to enjoy the conditions that you have and the waves that you have instead of focusing on any mistakes that you may have made.

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