Rassvet x Vans: Super Kruto
Words by Kirill Korobkov
This past summer Rassvet and Vans’ riders from France and Russia descended upon Moscow and the coast of the Black Sea for 2 weeks. Their common goal: to stack with Romain Batard for what would later become Super Kruto. But before we take a closer look at how all that went down I’d like to briefly delve into some of France and Russia’s lesser-known shared history. In the 18th and 19th centuries the Russian Empire went through quite a few decades of intense Gallomania where French became the main language of communication amongst the Russian elite. During that time many upper class people even knew it better than their native Russian! It must have been weird to see two Russian landowners talking to each other in French while relaxing in a sauna in the middle of the winter… Russia and France were also on the same side during both World Wars. During the Cold War the world was divided into two camps – one capitalist, the other communist. The USSR and France belonged to different camps but Charles de Gaulle was the only leader of a capitalist country who looked for better cooperation, not confrontation, and saw Russian culture as European. There is even a Charles de Gaulle monument in Moscow erected for his contribution to French-Russian relations, which weirdly ended up being one of the spots we skated!
So let’s take this recent trip as a small contribution to this long story of relations between France and Russia, after all there should be a little chapter on skateboarding too. Val Bauer, Lilian Fev, Joseph Biais and Alix Malnati linked up with Igor Smirnov, Ignat Mazurin, Kirill Gurin (also known as Kirux) and Eugene Nikolaev to promote this collaboration between Vans and Rassvet. All the photos were shot by France’s Alex Pires and Russia’s Alexey Lapin.
At one point Val said that this city reminded him of Rotterdam or Hamburg. It’s a vast city built around the harbour with a big port surrounded by low mountains. You can’t really find mountains in the Netherlands or northern Germany, but yeah, Novorossiysk has that same port city vibe: it’s one of the largest in the country. It’s from here that Russia exports oil and wheat and that all kinds of imports enter the country.
A good amount of Novorossiysk spots are located on the waterfront and for this reason are often very scenic. At one point we even found ourselves skating a spot on the beach that was about 10 metres away from where dolphins could be spotted jumping through waves. It was such a treat to discover that you could still find them in open water like this, right next to a big city…
Besides its port city status it’s also a gate to the resort zone that includes numerous small neighbouring cities. That industrialised part of Novorossiysk shaped by the port infrastructure is balanced (or supplemented) with vacation spots overlooking the Black Sea. Russians on seaside holidays is a subculture of its own. The majority of Russian citizens live far away from the southern seas and these trips are a very special thing that many have been waiting months or even years for. When vacation time finally begins they go all in! The beaches are packed from early on in the morning. By the sea you can find all segments of the population: from kids to pensioners, from street hooligans to wealthy families, from total psychos to Instagram models. The entertainment culture there is pretty simple: for fans of active relaxation on the beaches there are banana boat rides, trampolines and ginormous colourful inflatable slides that can be bigger than some people’s houses. For most Russian people the seaside holidays aren’t about comfort or high service, it’s all about actually being by the sea or in the water.
Five days in Novorossiysk was a good start. Romain Batard documented tricks on spots that most of the skateboarding world has never seen before. We survived extremely hot days that gave us the Black Sea tan and we even had a chance to enjoy the Russian Riviera. We went on an overpriced cruise that ended quite abruptly: they booted our whole crew off the boat because some of us felt ambitious enough to go for a swim while we were sailing (although to be honest the captain was a real jerk, you could tell he was looking for conflict from the moment we set foot on there).
It’s probably a clichéd thing to say but Moscow is a city that never sleeps. The energy is truly everywhere. Sometimes it fuels you; sometimes it lets you down. One day you can be in love with Moscow and hate it the next day. Moscow is the absolute epicentre of Russia in terms of politics, state administration and economy. It’s the primary Russian city where people head from all over the country to study, work and live. It has such a crazy mix of architecture styles from different ages. It can be beautiful one minute and incredibly ugly the next. The Russian capital is also a wild place to party with all sorts of bars, clubs and dance floors that had just recently reopened from their Covid-imposed closures. You could easily go out for a couple of mellow beers just as easily as you could find yourself losing a couple of days to a sleepless dance bender.
Summer is the best season to visit Moscow. You get daylight ‘til very late and the nights are only a couple hours long. Usually it’s hot and dry in summer. Muscovites feel rewarded that the cold and dark days have finally been left behind and it’s finally their moment to live a fulfilling life. Just being able to be outside in shorts and a t-shirt without carrying a sweater or jacket already feels like a gift… And it’s a perfect moment for skateboarding.
Moscow is seriously one of the best cities in the world for skating right now. I think I already talked about this for the Mockba Life article a couple years ago but I am not afraid of repeating myself when it comes to this. I’ve been lucky enough to visit many of the skateboarding Meccas all around the globe and these days Moscow is definitely up there close to the very top. In the city centre you don’t really need a list of spots because all of downtown Moscow’s recent renovations have pretty much made it one big public skate spot. Security guards can be an issue but only if you try to skate private properties or official buildings. Almost all the public spaces and plazas are good to skate.
This time we barely left the heart of Moscow and put a lot of hours in at the so-called Four Seasons Plaza. It’s a public space that recently became the new hot spot among Russian skaters. Located right by the Kremlin and Red Square, this place really represents Moscow. You can see the luxurious life of the area by looking at the hotels and restaurants around, but it’s also full of normal people going in different directions or getting busy with sightseeing. There is a 6-lane road on the edge of the spot that is always full of rushing cars going the same direction. It’s such a Moscow thing to have a highway running through downtown. The police are always there but they don’t care about skaters because their main mission is to block and stop any kind of protest activity, even if it is a single picket.
It was very fun to be part of an international mission for the first time since the start of the pandemic. Showing foreigners around your country, especially skaters, is always an exciting experience, but it’s also something I’ve been lucky enough to do quite a lot over the years; which is why we thought it would be interesting to also hear from two of the younger members of the crew!
‘Unlike Kirill, this trip was very much a first for me. It was my first time in Russia, what could arguably be described as my first “real” international skate trip and my first time meeting the Rassvet guys…
Upon our arrival in Russia we were subjected to the blistering heat of the port city of Novorossiysk (Novorisk to some, Novoriziksik to others). Despite a couple of our suitcases getting lost en route – and not just any suitcases, we’re talking about Romain’s, which contained all the batteries for the cameras and mine – we were genuinely super excited by the idea of discovering what this mysterious marble coated city had to offer.
Novorossiysk is in the South East of Russia, some 1500kms away from Moscow and at times it felt like we’d entered a time warp, completely removed from the contemporary world. In Novorossiysk, English is not spoken in the hotels, the city is immaculate and life mainly revolves around its pebbled beaches and the shopping malls that overlook them. In Novorossiysk you live in the real world, a real world that is thousands of kilometres away from the capital.
It’s through the good old lens of skateboarding that we experienced this city, guided by Kirill and the locals. The spots, deeply rooted in Russia’s rigorous architecture, were often inspiring not because of their originality but because of their inaccessibility in time and space. Realistically, Novorossiysk is a place you’ll only go to once in your life, and for one week. These are ephemeral spots that you’ll never see again. You hit them once, possibly come back to them a second time, but then you jump on a plane, and suddenly they’re no more than a fleeting memory of a race against time.
Despite Ignat’s rolled ankle on the first day and the stifling, humid heat (we quickly realised that early starts were pretty much the only way to get anything done in these conditions) we still managed to check out almost all of the city’s most coveted spots, and I even learnt a trendy trick: the slappy grind.
After our five days spent overlooking the Black Sea we jumped on a plane to Moscow.
Moscow is a huge city that is often stereotyped as being cold and at the heart of the country’s political inner turmoil, but as a tourist guided by actual locals, it felt incredibly vibrant and warm. We were staying a few minutes away from the ‘Four Seasons’ plaza (and the Kremlin) and very quickly found ourselves sucked in by everything it had to offer; some even spoke of coming back to film a full part there. It’s also worth noting that – despite the streets having quite a distinctive ‘picture perfect’ quality to them – bondo (which I was introduced to on this trip) found its way onto quite a few spots, and at times in large quantities. Val and Joseph, who regularly use the magic mixture at one point even spent hours applying it to a ledge directly under CCTV cameras, which added a nice little bit of extra stress to their run in with the police a few days later (the facial recognition technology mistook Joseph for someone the police were after).
On top of discovering a new city, meeting new people and adapting to new eating habits, I experienced what it was like to be a part of a proper skate trip with a real commercial goal for the first time. I don’t think I’d realised just quite how important a role one’s mental strength played in these situations, and that although you’re going to take pleasure in skating regardless, you kind of have to remember to be measured in your approach and do everything you can to last the whole trip. As the days went on I realised by watching the others that it was important to pace yourself and accept that it’s not worth trying to skate every single spot.
I was initially quite nervous about the idea of going away with people I didn’t really know that well, but I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that with the French crew we shared a very similar sense of humour (with an age gap of approximately 10 years) and that by spending time with them I seriously enriched my skate culture. I was also pleasantly surprised by how natural the French-Russian connection felt, and I really hope I’ll be able to be as welcoming when they come to Paris!
Also to me two weeks felt like pretty much the perfect length for a trip; it gives you enough time to rest for a few days if needed but also allows you not to come home not completely frustrated and over it.
Over these two weeks I observed and learnt a number of things, notably that:
- Jack Johnson is in Mindfield, that’s very important.
- The euphoria of a first skate-trip can lead to you letting Tolya and Val do your hair.
- It’s good to have a pair of loafers to chill in while in transit but only for when you’re
at the airport, when you’re on the actual plane nothing beats a pair of flip flops.
- A real media crew must know how to use a fish-eye as a 5th wheel. Oh and that having a suitcase to carry the kit (rather than a backpack with a broken zip) can be a game changer.
- Note to self: don’t whinge too much at spots too early on in the trip.
- Souvenir shirts can turn out to be standout fashion accessories.
- Mini plug is truly half the size of Alex Pires.
- Turning a slappy spot into a go-to spot isn’t just a Parisian thing.’
Interview with Kirill “Kirux” Gurin (by Kirill Korobkov).
You are from Novosibirsk, Siberia. Skateboarding isn’t really the first thing that comes to mind when people think about Siberia… Can you tell us about living there and also a little bit about yourself?
I am 15 years old and I’ve been skating for four years. People call our city the capital of Siberia. I think it’s because we have the biggest population out of all the Siberian cities. We have many street spots. It doesn’t get as cold as it gets in some other Siberian cities in winter and when it’s summer the weather in Novosibirsk is usually hot.
How did you start skateboarding?
It happened in 2017. Me and my older brother felt like it would cool to try to skate. He saw some tricks on the Braille Russia YouTube channel and we got sparked to try to learn them. One day we went to a local shopping mall to go go-karting and we found out that the same mall had an indoor skatepark. Our attention immediately switched to skateboarding… We went there, rented boards and this was the start of it. We had skateboarding lessons at first but I was lucky to get a good instructor. His name was Pasha Tregubov. He knew a lot and also was a good skater. The first month we had skateboarding lessons every Sunday and every lesson I learned something new. The following summer I still skated indoors in the same skatepark because I didn’t know that there were street spots.
And how did you finally leave that dark room?
I found out about a mini-ramp and went to skate it. This was where I met the major skate boys of my city.
Let’s get closer to this summer. How did you get to know Tolya and start riding for Rassvet?
I filmed a clip with Denis Kravchenko. He is the guy who does the videos for the Siberian skate crew Kras Cult. My video was seven minutes long and had a guest appearance by our best local rider Slava Tsoy. That clip got good views… Tolya liked it and started following me.
What year are we talking about right now?
It all happened in August 2020. It was pretty much one year ago from now.
Ok, keep talking.
A couple months later around November Tolya sent me a message and offered to send Rassvet decks and clothes.
What kind of emotions did you go through at that moment?
I was super nervous. I was scared to type something wrong. I even thought it could be a joke at first. The delivery took time and while I was waiting I thought it could be some kind of prank. In the end I got my first package and realised that it was for real. It was unbelievable!
And how did you finally meet Tolya in person?
Half a year ago I ended up in Moscow in the middle of the winter for medical tests. Our first meeting happened to be in an indoor skatepark and turned out to be very short. Tolya was in a rush to go somewhere. We didn’t do much together that day.
Tolya Titaev joins the talk.
Tolya: We also had a Rassvet shoot around the same time in winter and Kirill was part of it. I remember him being really upset that we didn’t have a proper skate session together. I promised him that I’d fly him to Moscow for two months in summer. Summer has come. And now you know the rest.
Ok, Kirill, thanks to Tolya you pretty much moved to Moscow this summer. What kind of experience was it for you being only 15 and in a big city like Moscow skating with Russia’s top players?
The first day it felt really awkward. I was really worried about my skating and everything. Also I had to establish a connection and communicate with all the boys. Everyone was super nice and friendly. It helped me a lot. It was very exciting to start filming with infamous Russian filmer Pasha Kryukov.
Let’s go through your feelings from the morning we all met you to get the train to the airport to start the tour. Only a couple months before that you’d been a very local skater from Siberia. In no time you joined a proper trip organised by Vans and Rassvet… Normally it takes years and years to achieve that.
Shock was the best word to describe my feelings at that moment.
By the way, you speak surprisingly good English… How come you know it so well? It’s not a common thing for a Russian person of your age to be able to communicate in English.
I had English classes in school.
Yes, all the Russian kids have them in school but only few are able to speak English well after that.
I put some extra effort into my English. Also watching movies with no translation and reading skateboarding interviews was very helpful.
So, we ended up in Novorossiysk with a well-known filmer and photographer which brings a certain level of responsibility. Tolya came along as a project manager too. How did you handle it?
Novorossiysk was great. There were so many spots on the seafront. It’s also been 11 years since I last visited the sea. The whole sea experience was definitely amazing. Skating with French comrades was so cool. Russian guys killed it too.
What good things can you remember when you think about Novorossiysk days?
I really enjoyed talking to Lilian. We managed to establish a good connection and maybe even start a friendship. By the end of the trip we communicated almost fluently. Also I was really impressed by Igor’s 50-50 yank into the bank. That was wild.
And how did you feel about your skating?
It was hard. It was super hot. I felt like I was getting sunstroke a couple times. I tried my best.
What can you say about the second part of the trip based in Moscow?
Unfortunately the night after we returned back to Moscow I went to a skatepark with friends and injured my shoulder skating the hip. I went to hospital and it was all good but I had to chill and missed the Moscow missions.
I guess this can be a lesson for you that you need to focus on one project at a time and prioritise opportunities.
Yes, true that.
Did you feel that besides all the fun sometimes skateboarding can feel like a job too?
I definitely felt the responsibility. I understood the importance of getting tricks better. The more tricks you film on tour, the better for you. I learned many new tricks and I started skating street spots more. It’s important to stay active.
Keep it going! As I said before what you achieved in just a couple months this summer, for some people it takes 10 years or even more. Appreciate it, you have a good head on your shoulders! Tolya, me and all your friends are always here to help you. Let’s go skateboarding!