My wife Katya is Russian and I've been to Russia a few times already but always in the winter so I'd never got to kayak there yet but always wanted to. This summer I was invited to come over for the Russian championships on Tivdia wave in the Keralia region (15 hours drive from Moscow). I arrived in Moscow a week early so together with Katya we went to a competition in Okulovka - Russia's first ww channel. We got picked up and set off driving through the middle of the city, passing by lots of colourful famous landmarks including the Kremlin (really beautiful city) and arrived at Okulovka the next morning.
The hole was super shallow and flushy but pretty fun at the same time - in the comp both me and Katya won the freestyle. It was only a small event apparently but there was good prize money, free food, a proper opening ceremony and around 100 paddlers competing in freestyle, slalom & boater cross kind of like an old Peak challenge. It was a really relaxed fun atmosphere there, everyone made me feel very welcome.
Next we went to Tivdia to get some practice before the Russian champs. It's in the Keralia region and was another 12hours drive away, quite far North with white nights ( light 24hrs a day ). The region is full of lakes and forest: loads of huge wild spaces unlike the UK or Europe :- this aspect I was looking forward to seeing. It didn't disappoint!!
The wave was supposed to be a bit low and was smaller than it can be but actually I loved it - you could do all wave moves and the odd big loop or mcnasty.We lived in a local house with a family, 3dogs and 5cats and a little kitten, lots of good company.I n the comp I was really happy with my rides and won again. 2nd was Grigori & 3rd Stas.
We also ran a master class that anyone could join. Lots of juniors are now appearing and it looks like the sports doing well here.
The day after the main comp was a big air contest on the nearby Girvas wave. It only runs when they turn the dam on full. It's a big, fast steep wave that can funnel you into a big hole and did result in some big beatings and swims.
It was quite hard to throw moves because of the wave being on an angle but I got some good stuff and really enjoyed it. I also managed to make it through the hole once - that surprised me I thought for sure I'd swim.
I'm pretty sure I had the biggest moves, but judges decided Mitya won with Grigori 3rd. Nevertheless I was happy with my paddling and enjoyed the camaraderie of pitting ourselves together against such a powerful feature, cheering each other on and trying to out do one-another. It was a really great spirit.
Finally was a final prize giving, party lots of games, more free food and a good chance to relax in beautiful pine forest next to a lake. Russia blew me away, I had such an enjoyable time, the paddlers were so helpful and friendly: they'd really go out of there way to help if they could.
The nature and landscape was vast & beautiful. The waves were fantastic.
I think everyone should visit Russia once. Just leave your preconceptions behind; it's nothing like what Western media shows.
Finally the actual competitions were super well done: they really know how to do it here - free entry, free food, free party, good waves, good atmosphere, good people, lots of fun & of course prize money.
Thanks to everyone who helped us and for inviting me to come - I will definitely be back next year - you really made it one of the best trips of my life and certainly some of the most fun competitions!
Photos by: Katya Kulkova, Alexander Zubov, Gennady Sokolov & Olga Blokhina.