Sochi, on the placid eastern shores of the Black Sea, is not a place one would expect to find a devoted surfer. But it is even more unexpected that this surfer would be a strikingly attractive Russian girl born in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan and raised in cold and remote Siberia.
Larisa Aleksandrova, the middle of three children, was born during the dying years of the Soviet Union in the Central Asian city of Bishkek. She moved with her family to a small city in Siberia’s Altai Region, then to Penza (southeast of Moscow) and on to Novokuznetsk in southwest Siberia, where she completed her university education in psychology. When I asked Larisa what was the genesis of her passion for surfing, she surprised me with her answer. At 15, she was given a disc of the American film “Point Break”. It changed the direction of her life. She loved the reverence for the ocean’s power and the shared sense of community in the surfing world. She laughs about it now, considering the film middling, but the lifestyle depicted in the film attracted her to the ocean. She spent the rest of her teen years dreaming about traveling to exotic locales to surf, but held out little hope that this would be her reality. Also, she watched everything about surfing that she could find in Siberia. I asked which surf film is her favorite now and she immediately replied “Endless Summer”, widely considered to be a classic of the genre.
Surfing was “only a dream” for her for a long time. Then in 2008, Larisa moved to Sochi because she wanted to live near the water. She took a job with Yota, the Russian internet provider, and realized that she could travel and try surfing. In 2010, she went to France and hired an instructor. She was hooked. The next year she journeyed to Bilbao, Spain and again learned with an instructor. Larisa says that Bilbao is her favorite city. She loves the delicious Spanish food, Bilbao’s night life and the frequent surf opportunities.
Late last year, Larisa and a friend from Sochi, Anna Alexeeva, went to Morocco and 3 months later she flew to Portugal, both to surf. When in Morocco, she was exposed to an international group of surfers and met new friends from all over the world. Flashing a ready smile and with a hearty laugh and a thick mane of curly hair, Larisa makes friends quickly. She said that the surfing community is kind and friendly and that, regardless to nationality, surfers share the ”language of the ocean”. Larisa said that when she is surfing there is only her and the wave- she forgets all else.
Larisa bought a board in Portugal. Although there is rarely surf in Sochi, in her spare time she is often in the sea practicing her paddling, balance and board skills. When not in the water, she said the waves are constantly on her mind. She told me she is already planning her surfing future, so I asked where she would like to go. Larisa mentioned Australia, South Africa, Peru and Chile as well as California, Tahiti and Hawaii. She said she hoped to go to Hawaii within 2 years and I told her that with her easy-going manner and love of the ocean, she would be a natural fit there.
Larisa is very satisfied with her work as an HR manager for Yota. She spoke in almost the same tones about it as she does surfing. Larisa said that “Yota is one of the best companies in Russia” and that she “could not imagine working for another.” What language did Larisa tell me about herself in? English. In between her travels in search of surf and for her work (she soon will fly to Khabarovsk and Vladivostok- about 4,500 miles east of Sochi!), Sochi’s surfer chick takes English lessons… and occasionally rests.
If you want to catch up to Larisa, she can often be found at the Sochi Expats Club parties, telling us about her latest travels.