Sup Tales from Russia, With Love

St Petersburg, Russia 2016 Fontanka Sup Festival closes the season for sup in Russia
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The average waterman may not imagine St. Petersburg, Russia aka the “Venice of the North” to be a burgeoning sup hub. When we think of Russia, we often consider such elements as long, freezing cold winters, people buried deep in their fur coats and hunched against the wind.  What we don’t expect to hear is that Russia is a home to …. sup lovers?  

” Water is omnipresent here.  You can feel it in the air.”

But, as Anastasia Pavlova, a Saint Petersburg active member of  the sup community, sup yoga teacher and sport traveler says, “Our home is full of water.  Rivers and canals flow through the city to separate it into over forty islands.  Water is omnipresent here.  You can feel it in the air.  It comes with endless rains and fog; and yet, our people are crazy about watersports, especially standup paddling!”

St. Petersburg, Russia:  a sup community

In fact, the paddling community in Russia is growing fast. The Russian coastline and inland waters are becoming more attractive for tourists and the sporting community from around the world.  Nowadays the government and the Russian Federation of Surfing, through it’s Standup Paddling Department, are working hard to support the industry’s growth through the development of national contests as well as local and international events.

In October, the Russians officially ‘close’ their sup season with the Fontanka River Sup Festival in Saint Petersburg.  For this festival, the entire sup community gathers to cruise the canals of the city on boards, wearing carnival costumes and celebrating their waterways.

St Petersburg, Russia is rapidly becoming THE HUB for sup in this largely undiscovered sup territory.

Let’s remember that October in St. Petersburg is around zero degrees.  The water temp around 5-7 degrees Celsius, and it’s often rainy. Even so, this year’s Fontanka River Sup Festival 2016 had NO shortage of participants.  Over 200 participants arrived to partake in the Festival, weather and all.  The oldest participant was in their 60’s, the youngest only seven!


“The weather did not stop the endless line of weird, freaky, funny, silly, beautiful and sexy characters
waiting to step on to their paddleboards and roll through the city.”

Fontanka River Sup Festival 2016

The all-day sup fest includes an 8KM sup race through the heart of the city, passing by historic arenas and crossing under some thirty bridges.  There is also a colorful Sup Carnival with a “best costume” competition.  Sup Yoga classes are held as well as a shorter race for local pros.

Best costume prizes for the Fontanka Sup Festival brought out a variety of local colors and flavors!

As Anastasia reports, “The day of the festival was gloomy and cold, but the weather did not stop the endless line of weird, freaky, funny, silly, beautiful and sexy characters waiting to step on to their paddleboards and roll through the city.”

The 8KM race, “was actually quite relaxed,” says Anastasia, “it seemed like the participants wished to make this last ride of the season as long as possible and enjoy every moment of it.”

The short distance race was fierce and competitive, hosting many of the local pros. St. Petersburg, Russia.

Spectators enjoyed the festival by walking the streets, watching from the many bridges and cheering on the participants of this colorful parade.  There were even opportunities to participate in the event by voting for best costume!

The day culminated in an awards ceremony where the local sup shops, schools, event organizers and photographers as well as the city’s fastest paddlers were rewarded for their efforts in helping to grow the sup community.

Spectators lined the bridges throughout the city to take pictures, cheer on participants and enjoy the Fontanka Sup Festival 2016. St. Petersburg, Russia

Russia Looks at Growth of the Sport of Paddling

Head of the Standup Paddling Department of the Russian Federation of Surfing, Denis Zinchuk, said, “I see that the amount of people joining the sport is growing.  The interest is growing too, but as the official person responsible for pushing this activity forward, I always want more.  I love the sport and wish to see it has the best future in our country.”

“Next year, with the support of the city administrators, we will have an opportunity to make a big sup event in the summer.  It will be at the end of June.  It will combine the carnival, festival format with the Russian Sup Cup (the Russian national sup championship) to turn the whole weekend into a lively, colorful, active event which we hope will gather all the people interested in standup paddling from St Petersburg and other cities in Russia as well as draw international visitors.”

Sup-er creative style and a fun-loving atmosphere at the 2016 Fontanka Sup Festival in St. Petersburg, Russia

Can you say sup costume party race in Saint Petersburg?

Stay tuned for MORE sup tales from Russia, with love.

For additional adventures in new places to explore on your paddleboard, check out Standup Journal’s DESTINATIONS HUB.


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Evelyn O'Doherty, editor & publisher of the new Standup Journal 2.0 is a former school teacher gone rogue. She left her career as a teacher in order to spend more time near or on the water after learning to surf turned her life around (upsidedown?). She is a year-round surfer and paddler living on the eastern tip of Long Island in NY who is a certified SUP instructor, seasoned SUP racer and avid longboard surfer. Evelyn was hired as Online Editor to Standup Journal in 2016. Her passion for the project quickly led to her success and eventually taking over the mag herself in Oct. 2018. Today, as editor, publisher and chief bottle washer at Standup Journal, Evelyn keeps her toes wet writing, traveling, paddling, surfing, and learning to foil. You can find her most days paddling out on Gardiner's Bay or surfing Ditch Plains in Montauk, NY.