Ice Fishing

Icy Pastimes in Vladivostok

Published: February 7, 2016

Low tempatures in winter in Vladivostok creates an abundance of ice, including usually freezing the city’s entire saltwater bay. With the expanse of newly traversable space, with incredible views, the people of Vladivostok put it to a myriad of recreational uses. Below are a few that SRAS students have experienced while studying abroad in Vladivostok.

Ice Fishing in Vladivostok

Ice fishing is probably one of the most common activities to see in the deep winter months. Along almost any part of the frozen coast, lone figures huddle with diminutive fishing poles over the ice, bobbing their lines up and down in six-inch holes to attract the fish beneath. I tried my hand at it for a few minutes when I approached a Russian family to ask about the activity. It’s pretty straightforward (although I didn’t catch anything in my few minutes), and it seems to be a peaceful and relaxing pastime. I spoke to a few different people ice fishing, and all of them were quite amenable. This is certainly worth the time to at least stop off and watch for a few minutes. The standard equipment seems to be a simple auger, the aforementioned tiny fishing poles, and a chair.

Ice Driving in Vladivostok

I don’t know if you can own a car and not want to try this. Driving on the ice for no functional purpose looks like a pinnacle of motorized fun: Rev the engine, hit the gas, spin the wheel, and slam on the brakes. The car goes careening around in circles like a drunken merry-go-round. Bonus points if you can manage this whilst your passengers hang perilously outside the windows howling like crazed hyenas.

Emerging from the ice plunge.
Emerging from the ice plunge.

For the record, I did not get to do this. But it’s on the bucket list now.

Ice Plunges in Vladivostok

During the Russian Orthodox celebration of Epiphany in January, it is traditional that people go to be baptized each year. Sadly, I missed this icy expression of faith, but fortunately, Russians still enjoy partaking of that invigorating dip, sans the religious pretext. A change of clothes and a nearby changing room are strongly recommended from my point of view.

So how was it? Honestly, it was not as life-numbingly cold as I expected. Don’t get me wrong though, it still takes a reasonable degree of mental fortitude to follow through. Commitment is key.  I waded into the pool and took three full submersions. As I got out of the pool into what felt like balmy 14°F weather, my friend Sasha remarked with a chuckle, “This is our Russian entertainment.”

That wraps up a few of the experiences I’ve had since my return, and looking forward to seeing what else the winter has to offer in the weeks ahead. For now, it’s great to be back in Vladivostok, reconnecting with friends and gearing up for the new semester.

Vladivostok Ice Run

The first annual Vladivostok Ice Run, organized by RunDNSRun, took place this weekend on February 21, 2016. A friend of mine, a volunteer organizer of the race, told me about the event two weeks ago. Although most of my exercise has been limited to the weight room of late, I still leaped at the opportunity to experience this unique run. Most club runs cost 0-1000 rubles to join.

In the week leading up to the race, my connection with the volunteers allowed me to get some training in on the actual course and even get an interview (in Russian!) with a local news outlet.

I have competed in races in the past, but as the name might imply, this race takes place entirely on one of Vladivostok’s frozen bays. The runners started arriving in the morning to an upbeat emcee and performances by local singers and dance groups. Various local news crews were busy interviewing participants and getting footage of the warm-up activities. I had hoped for some sunny weather with slightly less frigid temperatures for the race. And, while the sun began to peek out in the afternoon, we had a strong breeze to bring the wind-chill back down to well below freezing.

The Ice Run’s slogan was “honor for the brave” because it was held on February 23, Defenders of the Fatherland Day, a national holiday in Russia that recognizes the men who have served in the Russian army. Almost 400 runners came out for the event. One could compete in the distance of 5 kilometer, 10 kilometer, or half marathon categories. I competed in the 10k category, and my track covered a 5k distance out and then the same route on the return.

The ice surface itself is, of course, very slick for running. But recent snowfall helped by creating a thick coating of snow over the top of the ice. My position in the middle of the pack was ideal because the vanguard runners made a well-packed path in the snow for the rest of us. Some sections of the course were bare ice, however, and it certainly is a different experience to not have sure footing on a completely flat surface.

Vladivostok Ice Run
Vladivostok Ice Run

The first half of the race, I was running into the wind, which not only makes each step just a little bit harder, it also makes it feel much colder. The temperature in the afternoon was at 24ºF, but the wind chill brought it down to about 15ºF. Tables set up along the way with hot tea and quick foods were a welcome way to warm up.

During the second half of the race I met a 50 year-old, Polish-born lawyer who now makes his home in Vladivostok. With the wind at our backs, running felt a lot easier. We kept equal pace and had a good conversation on the way to the finish line, where we crossed together. Making new friends takes the mind off burning legs and lungs, and it made a very memorable finish to the race.

After the race, everyone congratulated each other and took photos while we waited for the half marathoners to come back in. The awards ceremony gave out sever hundred thousand Rubles to the victors of the various categories.

I definitely believe that the event was a big success for the organizers from Vladivostok’s running club, RunDNSRun. I would expect the Ice Run to become an annual competition. I absolutely recommend it.

About the author

Jonathan Rainey

Jonathan Rainey majored in History and English at Francis Marion University in Florence, SC. While at Francis Marion, he was a member of Phi Alpha Theta, National History Honors Society and worked as a reporter for The Patriot, the university's newspaper. Jonathan will be serving as an SRAS Home and Abroad Scholar in Vladivostok for the 2015-2016 school year. He is pictured here at Vladivostok's annual celebration of "Tiger Day."

Program attended: Home and Abroad Scholar

View all posts by: Jonathan Rainey