Russia is usually associated with snow, and frost, which is hardly a surprise, since most of the Russian territories have winter for half the year. But there is a tiny piece of land by the Black Sea called the Russian South, where a warm sub-tropical climate means skateboarding almost all-year long.
The weather in the Russian South has made it an alternative centre for skateboarding in Russia, where skaters from Moscow, Saint Petersburg and other northern cities go to escape winter.
The 2014 Sochi Olympics improved the infrastructure of the region, and put the Russian South on the international map. Even though Sochi is the most famous location in this part of Russia, there are a few other cities there which are worth checking out.
We started skating in Krasnodar, the biggest city in the region and business capital of Southern Russia. It's one of the fastest growing cities in the country, but retains traditional architecture with narrow streets and private houses.
Krasnodar doesn’t have many buildings taller than three floors, and even the city centre is full of family houses with their own little piece of land and a fence around it. Still, the city is really big; you can drive around it for hours.
The Southern provinces used to be the Russian frontier, with an unofficial rule that people who moved there were free from prosecution by state law.
Many gentlemen of fortune, criminals and escaped prisoners settled there back in the day; a social category later called Cossacks. The entire Russian South was influenced by Cossack tradition and culture, and even though nowadays it's a normal province, the spirit of adventure, explosive tempers and reckless behaviour are commonplace.
One cool thing about Krasnodar is that they close the main street to car traffic at weekends.You can cruise from spot to spot and push around. The general reaction towards us was positive; I can’t say that Russian people are too supportive of street skating – but they don’t cause too many problems, either.
The second stop of the trip was the city of Maykop. None of us had been there before. Skateboarding barely exists in Maykop, but we met a couple of locals who couldn’t believe their eyes. Maxim Kruglov was the only guy who they recognised. While here, we found the cherry on the cake: an epic airplane monument with a natural quarter pipe underneath it.
I’ve been travelling Russia for years and have seen a great many airplane monuments. Only a few of them were skateable, and this one is top of the skate-friendly airplane monument list.
For the second part of our trip, we moved to the coast of the Black Sea to discover what Sochifornia is all about.