How far would you drive for some warmer paddleboarding conditions? How about 2,500 km in 2 days?
Read this amazing story by Russian, Julia Karpacheva and her paddleboard adventure with friends to escape the cold winter of Saint Petersburg.
Last summer in Russia turned out to be the coldest that I remember. Snow in May, +4 in June, plus a weird choice to go to the Arctic to do some fishing & surfing – it was unbearable. Though I admit the last one was a weird choice for summer vacation. So this year we decided to pack our Starboard Inflatable Touring board and paddle in the warm, welcoming waters of the Black Sea.
The adventure started by us jam-packing our Outlander, so much so that we couldn’t see out the back window: The car had 3 inflatable SUPs, wetsuits, drysuits, dry bags, life vests, rucksacks, tents, sleeping bags, camping gear, spearfishing gear… luckily we had just enough space left for 3 people. We had no idea what we we wanted to do, we just knew that we wanted to go somewhere to paddle and camp somewhere on the coast. The coast being 2233 km away. It’s almost the same distance as if driving from Lisbon to Munich or from NYC to Miami.
So we had 6 people, 6 SUPs, 2 cars. We left our hometown of Saint-Petersburg on the 30th April, with the outside air temperature measuring 8 degrees, with lots of naked trees, we then finished in +28 with lilac’s blooming, hot salty air and t-shirts on. This was teleporting to happiness, Nordic people would understand. Our first stop was in a remote bay that had only a couple of other tents, as soon as we arrived and before we had time to pitch our tents we had the SUPs out. The place we were at had some locals that were eager to see us go, as we apparently camped at their dinner table!
From this campsite, we paddled to the Devil’s Gate. An arch-like cliff where the Ancient Greeks believed to be the gateway to hell. Maybe Orpheus and Oddissey really made it through those gates or it is just a pickup line for the tourists. We couldn’t find the entrance, so just continued paddling along Kara Dag mountain, rocky leftovers of a 150 million years old volcano. We spent 6 hours at sea, got medium rare burnt by the sun and moved further down the coast. We had to spend the next day hiking to cool down and let our skin heal.
At the beginning un-packing and packing the cars were a bit of a challenge. Just to get one bag we needed to take out all the SUPs, paddles, more bags, then put it back. And we rolled, unrolled, changed the places of everything, but then we reached the zen of efficient storage. Still, when driving through winding mountain roads our back seat passenger would be piled under an avalanche of rucksacks.
The next day we made it to Gurzuf. A classy tourist place, but we had a non-classy route in mind – to explore two rocky twin-islands. In the 1920s there was a fancy restaurant right on top of one, but it was ruined by an earthquake. Now only gannets dine there. We packed sandwiches, Moka express coffeemaker and a gas-jet. Yes, why not to paddle somewhere to have your coffee with a view?
Our next plan was to load our SUPs with tents, dry bags, everything essential for a couple of days in the wild and just paddle out somewhere in search for a hotel of million stars. We arrived in Balaklava to do so. For the first time, I used my Starboard Inflatable Touring board for the real deal adventuring. When you have tents, mats, bags, food, gear. Everything fitted like it was destined to. For a shorter board, we found another solution – a spearfishing float was used as a trailer.
By the time the sun was down we found a luxurious spot in a wild beach, surrounded by mountains, rocks and overlooking the bay. No people, no hustle, just remote fisherman boats and dolphins. In a place with no phone connection and or any distractions, what would you do? Hunt, cook, read and – repeat. The ideal formula to reset before going back to offices.
In a week we crossed the Peninsula of Crimea from east to west, drank coffee on it’s highest mountain Ai Petri, suddenly found lovely baby-waves for sup-surfing at the western point – Tarkhankut Cape, ate at local cafes veggies and grilled meat we, the citizens, called organic. Went fishing, met moon rises with local wine, jumped from SUPs into the sea, saw dolphins in 5 meters from our boards. Read no news and paddled in the sunset. Even though the road may seem long, but when you treat it like a journey – this makes all the difference. You grab your boards, your friends, your beloved ones and go into the wild. Have a map and have no plan. Yes, totally worth it. Thank you, planet Earth for being our awesome host.
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