The geometry of surfing. Interview with top Russian surfer Seva Shulgin

The editor of Windy.app, a professional weather app for surfing and other outdoor activities, small-talked to one of the top Russian surfers Seva Shulgin.

In an interview he told about his new book “Finding Your Wave” (Eksmo, Russian language, 2020), his search for inspiration, the parallels between surfing and life, and the positives of the global pandemic.


— It’s common for a publisher to reach out to a famous person and offer to write a book. How did that happen for you?

— It was different for me. I had been nurturing the idea for a book since 2016. And I even undertook it, wrote a few chapters, but I didn’t like the result at all. And I gave up all the work.

This year I came to Costa Rica with a surf camp, where the pandemic caught me. Five months away from home, strangely enough, made me come to a mental balance, look at many things differently. I wanted to share my discoveries with others. I thought about writing again.

If I hadn’t been trapped in Costa Rica because of the pandemic that brought the world to a halt, I probably never would have published this book.

Here, perhaps for the first time in my life, I was able to rethink all my past journeys and begin a great and new wander — inside myself.

Now my text is very different from the previous one. It is more about the main event in my life — when I rode the Jaws wave, one of the biggest and most dangerous in the world.

I wouldn’t call my work a memoir. It is a collection of different stories from three eras: the late Soviet Union, the 1990s, and the present since the early 2000s.

— Explain as clearly as possible who your book is for?

— Of course, surfers will be interested in this book in the first place. Because this is the first Russian publication about real surfing, I would not advise taking it seriously.

But ordinary people will probably be interested in my personal stories. Because they are not only about the sport but also about life experience in the broad sense of the word. Take for example the current situation in the world: it’s a wipeout — when a wave grabs and holds. But if you’re a surfer, you know that any storm comes to an end sooner or later.

— Still, being a surfer and a writer is an atypical situation. Whose examples have you been inspired by?

— There are a lot of surf books written all over the world. These are very popular and sought-after books over the years. I myself have read several with gusto, such as The Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan.

— Please share some creative rules or techniques you follow.

— I don’t have any such techniques. The stories would come out on their own, I would just record them. A special program would transcribe the tapes. And then the editors give it the right form.

— You also have a film about surfing, Yard, The Big Wave. What’s the difference between writing a book and making a movie?

— Film and literature are different genres. A movie is a real story with the artwork. A movie has a lot of fiction, but a book describes my real story, I am completely defenseless and open to the reader.

By the way, I also worked on the video for three years, I hesitated to release it. I am a very self-critical person.

The interview “Finding Your Wave” — not the ABCs, but the geometry of surfing” was originally published in the online journal of Eksmo, the largest publishing in Russia, on October 30, 2020.


Text: Ivan Kuznetsov

Cover photo: Seva Shulgin in the USA