Russia’s Best Surfer Won A National Title In A Lake Before Posting Up In Indo
Nikita Avdeev plans to shed light on Russia’s begrudging surf scene.
“Where exactly in Russia are you from?” I asked Nikita Avdeev, Google Maps at the ready.
He paused before replying, “I’ll just text it to you.”
Indeed, Yekaterinburg, located in north-central Russia and the country’s fourth-largest city, would have been too tedious for him to spell out for me and there was no way I’d get the spelling right on my own.
Believe it or not, there are good uncrowded waves in Russia. The Kamchatka peninsula especially has a variety of rugged and remote setups. But Nikita, a 23-year-old aspiring professional surfer and a four-time Russian national champ, grew up in a city that’s closer to the Article Circle than rippable ocean waves. I had to know how he even got interested in standing up on a surfboard, let alone learn how to land airs and get tubed.
It turns out Nikita’s father is a kitesurfer, and Nikita saw surfing for the first time in one of his magazines.
“I thought it was insane,” he said. “Then we got the movie Surfs Up, the one with the penguins, and I was like, ‘That’s who I want to be!’”
So around age 8, Nikita began traveling with his father periodically to surf around Russia and other (warmer) lineups. His first session was in Indonesia. But it was painfully slow going for the grom. If he was lucky, he’d take two trips a year up until age 16, then spend the next eight to 11 months landlocked in Siberia. That meant when Nikita finally booked his ticket, he adopted Ace Buchan-level focus to take advantage of every session.
“I was really using each chance I had to surf,” he said. I had two weeks to surf, and I think that was key to my progression. I didn’t have much time to do it, so each session I’d surf myself out and put all of myself out there. Eventually, the results started to show in Russian comps and ISA contests. He even won one of his national titles on a lake in Saint Petersburg.
“It’s not big surf, but after watching Huntington I can say it’s a surf spot,” Nikita laughs.
In his film linked above, Nikita revels in waves a world away from Huntington and Russia. Filmed over the past summer in Indonesia, he stylishly maneuvers above the lip and below sea level.
In today’s economic climate, even surfing’s elite aren’t guaranteed to ink strong deals, and it’s no different for Nikita. He said after the war between Russia and Ukraine began in February 2022, sponsors like Toyota, JBL and G-Shock backed off and didn’t want to be associated with Russia. Today he’s supported by Island Brewing Co. and DMS Surfboards while competing in the WSL’s Asian QS circuit.
“It was heavy, but I’m definitely not in the worst spot,” he said. “I’m glad for my life and the opportunities I have. I still have surfing. It’s a tough time, but tough times make good people better.”
Two things were abundantly clear after talking with Nikita for only a few minutes. The first is that spending most of his time in Indonesia appears only to have reinvigorated his stoke. He is far from jaded in his adopted home.
The second is that Nikita is well-positioned to be an ambassador of the begrudging Russian surf scene. He’s considering making another film about surf culture in his home country and specifically referenced Stab and Red Bull’s No Contest series as a comparable framework.
“I really want to be that guy who connects Russian surf culture, which is slowly starting to get there, with world surf culture and avoid any bad stuff and make it a smooth transition so people can travel to different places,” he said. “I’d also like Russians to look wider and see how we can surf on the world stage. For kids to know you can get better, be on the QS and maybe the Challenger Series.”
As Nikita himself put it, that would indeed be sik.
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