The Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia's Far East is a subarctic wonder, packed with active volcanoes and glaciers. It also juts deep into the Pacific Ocean, catching massive swells from Japan and Alaska – the kind ambitious surfers dream about. The waters are virtually untouched thanks to the region's remoteness and its function as home to some of Russia's major military bases. Off-limits throughout the Cold War, the peninsula was opened to civilians only about 20 years ago, and much of its 100,000-square-mile expanse is still restricted.
A new surfing documentary where surfer writer Ben Weiland and photographer Chris Burkard traveled with friends to Russia's forbidden peninsula, Kamchatka.
Kamchatka Peninsula, also spelled Kamčatka, Russian Poluostrov Kamchatka, peninsula in far eastern Russia, lying between the Sea of Okhotsk on the west and the Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea on the east. It is about 750 miles (1,200 km) long north-south and about 300 miles (480 km) across at its widest; its area is approximately 140,000 square miles (370,000 square km). Two mountain ranges, the Sredinny (“Central”) and Vostochny (“Eastern”), extend along the peninsula and rise to 15,584 feet (4,750 m) in Klyuchevskaya Volcano. The trough between these mountain chains is occupied for much of its length by the Kamchatka River. Of the 127 volcanoes, 22 are still active, as are a number of geysers and hot springs. Most of the active volcanoes lie along a fault line on the eastern flank of the Vostochny Range. The western coastlands of the Kamchatka Peninsula form a low plain crossed by many rivers and with extensive swamps, while the eastern coast is an alternation of broad gulfs and cliffed, mountainous peninsulas. A small geothermal-power station uses underground steam and is in operation near the southern end of the peninsula.
The climate of the Kamchatka Peninsula is severe, with prolonged, cold, and snowy winters and wet, cool summers. Most of Kamchatka is tundra supporting mosses and lichens, with thickets of Kamchatka alder. Sheltered lowlands—notably the valley of the Kamchatka River, which separates the mountain chains—are in birch or larch forest, with poplar and willow in wetter areas.
The only important economic activity is fishing, especially crabbing, around the coasts. Agriculture is limited; some cattle and reindeer are kept. The main centre is the city and port of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, which is located on the southeastern coast of the peninsula. Most of the inhabitants are Russians, with indigenous Koryak, Chukchi, and Kamchadal.