Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan

Asia
LAST UPDATED 15/09/2008
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Level of surfing

Beginner

Quality of surf

Average

Call code

998

Net code

uz

Area

447400

Coastline

420 km

Climate

Mid Latitude desert, long hot summers

Hazards

Very Isolated, Extreme Heat

Best Months

November - January

Population

26593000

Currency

Uzbekistan Som (UZS)

Time Zone

UZT (UTC+5)

Special Requirements

Private Beaches, Special Pass / Permits, Lengthy VISA Process, Non tourist Friendly, Limited Surfing Supplies Available

surfing

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Staecker: Abandoned Ship in the Aral Sea: 2003

Around 5.5 million years ago, the modern day continents of Europe and Asia (then Laurasia) finally joined with part of the Gondwana supercontinent. For millions of years, the body of water that lie between them was known as the Tethys Ocean. As this gap closed, the Ocean became the Tethys Sea and finally whay was once an ocean was lifted to form the mightly Himalayas. The residual water from this great Ocean forms the modern day Mediterranean, Black, Caspian and Aral seas. Whilst the Mediterrnanean maintains a tenuous direct passage to the open ocean via the Strait of Gibraltar, the other seas are now totally cut off; ancient reminders of a long forgotten Ocean, we are left to merely speculate on what surfing that Ocean 250 million years ago would have been like.

The Aral Sea is dying. We hear of waves disapearing from the planet all the time due to the construction of piers or groynes but how often does an entire wave carrying body of water disapear. Over the last 50 years, the Aral Sea has shrunk to around half of its size. Currently at around 17,000 square kilometres, it borders on the size required to carry a large enough windswell to generate a rideable wave. 40 years ago there was regular surf, today rideable days are perhaps once every 2-3 years. Waves on the Aral sea are some of the rarest on the planet. The ongoing depletion of water means that spots that had waves 20 years ago are now several kilometres inland, surrounded by errie images of ships lying on their keels in the desert sand and the harbours of once bustling fishing villages now knee deep in grassy steppe. Part of the ancient terraforming process has thrust the Aral Sea 315 metres into the air meaning that waves here are also the highest in the world. The damage to the Aral is all man made, ongoing diversion of the rivers that supply the Aral by the former Soviet Union have seen the Sea shrink to about 25% of it's original size 200 years ago. To make matters worse, the former Soviet Union built a bioweapons research facility on Vorozhydeniya Island in the centre of the sea during the 1940's and did little to stop the area becoming a dumping ground for sewage. The two countries that share the Aral coastline, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have bowed to world pressure to attempt to salvage what remains of the Aral but the future appears bleak - surf it before it disapears forever.

Surfing the Aral from Uzbekistan is like stepping back in time. What you are looking for is a stray sirocco storm system to go spinning out of control across the Med and skip across Turkey to the Caspian and then onto the Aral. The window for this event is small with Nov-Dec your best bet. Can you honestly think of a more unique surfing experience than spending a northern hemisphere winter hunkered down in a bar in the Uzbekistan town of Komsomolsk waiting for the mother of all storms to turn the Aral into a swell generating machine. When it happens, hire a Lada and hit the sandy points and bars of the coast just out of town - a unique experience that few have ever experienced and even fewer will do so in the future.

what to pack

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Rich Niewiroski Jr.: 62 mm ultra-violet, fluorescent, and polarizing lens filters. Camera used was a Canon 400D; April 9, 2007

Tmake sure you take a good sunscreen (SPF 30+); a good insect repellent will be very useful. Bring on the medicines you are used to take. Comfortable walking shoes, sandals, hat and natural fabrics (such as cotton or linen) clothes will be great. Also take something warm just in case. Don't forget a backpack, sandals and comfortable walking shoes that might be useful if your planning to travel around.

And take a good protection for your camera from the sand.

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