The Black Coast

A skateboarding tour in Abkhazia battles the elements in photographs by Petr Barabaka.

Despite its warm climate, Abkhazia is not the most suitable destination for a skateboarding tour. Especially when non-stop rain and storms replace sea breezes and bright mountain sunshine. Photographer Petr Barabaka witnessed it firsthand when he, together with other members of the Absurd skateboarding team, visited the state.

“The trip was a part of skate-tour with the Absurd team,” recollects Petr. “Usually I spend winters in Krasnaya Polyana, Sochi, which is a 20-minute ride from the Abkhaz border. The guys joined me there and we set off. We were unlucky with the weather – it was very hot the week before, about 20 degrees Celsius, but we got caught up in the rain and were able to skate properly for only three days of the trip. Such weather makes everything but the nature in Abkhazia very gloomy.” 

Located in the Transcaucasia region along the Black Sea, Abkhazia was a popular holiday destination for Soviet and, more recently, Russian tourists. However, after the collapse of the USSR, most facilities fell into disrepair, which severely hurt the the economy of the partially recognized state. Implications of the 1992-1993 conflict with Georgia and the state's current ambiguous political status make Abkhazia a difficult place for tourists and, of course, the local population. Skaters look positively alien against the desolate landscape of the former elite Soviet resort.

Although difficult, skating in such places makes for perfect field training, and the area’s picturesque nature and architecture presents many opportunities for a photographer, but only when the weather is right. “The fog and grayness, when mixed with abandoned houses and remains of Soviet luxury, only added to the feeling of despondency,” says Petr. “Therefore, I wasn’t able to shoot often, and we had to skate in deserted Soviet sanatoriums and malls while it was raining.”

Yet, Abkhazia proved a perfect backdrop for the photographer who is always on the lookout for the lonesome and alienated.