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Anastasia Temirbek faces a 10-foot wall of whitewater while paddling along the pier at the International Surfing Association World Surfing Games in Huntington Beach, California, this week.

As Temirbek’s heat began, the ocean decided to pulsate, sending a steady succession of hard waves into the lineup and leaving surfers struggling to “out back” it into calmer waters.

But at least there were no mines.

And the water was a balmy 71 degrees—warm enough for a bikini instead of a thick, cumbersome wetsuit. No rockets flying overhead. There were no ice floats in the lineup, and bright sunlight descended on the golden sands from a perfect, cloudless sky.

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Temirbek is one of six members of the Ukrainian national surf team who traveled to California against all odds to compete in the country’s second outing at the annual 2022 ISA World Surfing Games.

Ukraine’s new surfing community has grown up on the Black Sea beaches of Odessa. Although the waves are small and often chilly, the joy of surfing is real.

But the war in Ukraine has made the Black Sea a no-go zone for surfers.

The president of the Ukrainian Surfing Federation, Vasyl Kordysh — and several of the country’s other top surfers — are stuck in Odessa and, under wartime travel restrictions, are not allowed to leave the country to surf the annual competition.

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“I really wanted to be there with them at this point,” Cordish told USA TODAY in an interview from Odessa. “But in our situation, it’s not the best time right now.”

Julia Kulish of the Ukrainian team catches a wave at the 2022 ISA World Surfing Games on Tuesday.

Mine in the lineup

A few months ago, Kordish moved closer to the ocean.

Now, he said, he can walk home in his wetsuit a few blocks to Arcadia Beach, his local surf break — no advantage when it’s snowing outside.

Vasyl Cordish is surfing in Odessa, Ukraine, where water temperatures often call for not just a wetsuit, but booties and a hood.

Kardish took this step for his love of sports. But it turns out that changing apartments saved his life. A few weeks after he moved, a rocket hit his old apartment building, destroying it.

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“It was really hard to get in there and check out what it looks like,” Cordish said. “It is, like, a building with a hole. You can see through the building.”

Smoke rises in the air after gunfire in Odesa, Ukraine, Saturday, July 16, 2022.

Cordish and Ukrainian surfers who compete in California admit that conditions in Odessa are far from ideal for developing one’s skills for the international surf circuit. The Black Sea only produces waves when it is very windy, producing small, mushy waves that are wind-swelled. It’s like surfing from Hawaii’s famous North Shore to the North Shore of Lake Superior (which actually happens).

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