Corners Of The Earth: Kamchatka
Boldly going where no surfer has gone before.
Corners Of The Earth: Kamchatka
Over the years I’ve made many trips to Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula. The first, way back in 2006, exhausted my monthly download limit. Not to be deterred, I made intermittent returns to Russia’s desolate far east, sometimes every month, and sometimes, when the wonderment would really strike, I’d log on and visit every week.
Soaring over the coastline while looking for surf spots that’ve never been surfed, some never even photographed, served a desire within, though it was never strong enough to break the corporeal bond and get my arse over there - like, really over there.
I could count any number of excuses why, though they all boil down to this: It’s too hard and it’s too expensive. Oh, and it’s too cold too. Clearly I’m not the only surfer to arrive at this conclusion because though summer and autumn missions to Kamchatka are many, no-one has traveled to surf there in the winter, and that’s when the swell is at its best.
When Spencer Frost and Guy Williment considered a surf trip to Kamchatka, they took an inverse approach to myself and every other surfer. Never mind the cold and the expenses, it was simply because surfers hadn't been there that they would go.
The feature length film that resulted from the trip, Corners Of The Earth: Kamchatka, begins with the planning process, though the viewer gets only a mere glimpse: organising visas, connecting with locals, customising wetsuits. Only when they go to check in 150 kgs of camera gear do you get a sense of the scale of the mission. In a recent interview with Swellnet, Spencer said the trip took two years of thinking, including one solid year of planning.
Slightly more difficult than logging on to Google Earth then.
Roped into the mission are surfers Letty Mortensen and Fraser Dovell - the guns for hire in this unlikely surf film. Lovable Letty with the filter-less impulses whether surfing or emoting on screen, and Fraser who’s staunch…or at least more staunch than Letty. Both prove good choices, surfing well in the conditions, and, perhaps more importantly considering the project, presenting well on camera.
If you read the aforementioned interview with Swellnet you’d be aware of the unfortunate timing of the trip. “Things really escalated since we’ve been on the flight,” deadpans Fraser from the airport in Abu Dhabi. While airborne, Vlad the Invader crossed into Ukraine and put his country at war. The trip was very nearly over before it began.
Yet the trip was already extreme by ordinary standards, so dodging an unfolding war was but one more narrative obstacle. Of course they got into Russia, but only just, and with the camera constantly rolling it makes for captivating viewing.
Once they get to Kamchatka, however, is where the camera work comes into its own. How can it not, with a white wonderland of smoking volcanoes - there are 28 of them on the peninsula - towering over a prehistoric coastline. It’s Jurassic Park above the Arctic Circle. Humankind can’t make an impression against such a vast and intimidating landscape.
Set to this stunning backdrop the group take reconaissance missions, mostly by helicopter, but ski-doo and 4WD too, scouting for familiar shapes and curves at the interface of raw coast and wild weather. To a degree they find them, the best of which is a left that looks like a cross between a good day at the Pebble at Clovelly and Blackfellas, but in keeping with the narrative it’s a hard son of a bitch to ride, and it almost brings them undone.
The surfing sequences, especially at the left, have gotta be seen in the context of discovery; of disappearing over the frontier, far from comfort or help. Many waves are repeated, filmed from two angles, which betrays a low wave count, but also the difficulties faced - every wave was a victory of sorts.
Before writing this review, I paid yet another visit to Kamchatka. Virtually flew over the same coastline the boys did, checking out where they surfed. In doing so I realised that, firstly, that Google Earth is a monstrous distortion of reality, and secondly, despite dropping off the edge of the known surfing world, the group had only surveyed a tiny slice of the Kamchatka coastline.
Meaning, the unsurfed frontiers are still out there. All you have to do is ask yourself: How much do I want it?
Don't know the answer to that question..? Then get along to Corners Of The Answer: Kamchatka.
// STU NETTLE
See below for screenings dates and times. Click here to buy tickets, and also keep abreast of further announcements.
Would it be impolite to ask the guys for a funding and budget breakdown Stu? I too have been planning a Kamchatka mission for several years but just keep running out of ideas when it comes to paying for everything, especially the helicopters.
If you listen to the ain't that swell podcast they done it cost around $100K.
It's a great listen.
Cheers stiffy, I'll give it a listen.
Husband, "I think we should sell the house so I can go on a 2 week surf trip to Russia."
how short are the days in winter?
8-9 hrs of sun up at this time of year.
Saw the premiere on Friday night. Lots of reaction from the crowd, hooting, ooing and whistling.
A great movie and such hard work in the depths of winter! The left is super, super heavy and technical, good on them for giving it a crack. The landscapes were incredible.
Be easy enough to take surf and snow boards on board, lucky enough to have visited Kamchatka twice, one summer hiking and one snowboard spring trip, amazing place with mindblowing vistas and the mad max vehicles they use to access the amazing places are very cool as well
Twice to Kamchatka! I'm envious. How far from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky did you go for hiking?
Not that far as PK is surrounded by epicness, we drove up to the saddle between Avachinsky and Koryaksky volcanoes, walked up Avachinsky and then continued on into the Nalychevo Nature Park, 10n walk with 20 Russians it was fun and very beautiful!
I was gutted the sydney shows sold out so quickly. Will there be any further screenings in the future?
Saw this last night in Byron… epic film, incredible visuals and a really good story line too. Picked up a hard cover book too (on sale after the show) which is divine.
Well done fellas!