Think Thank in Russia

Ted Borland

Sleepy Teddy.

Sean Lucey Think Thanks

Lucey gets his phone out to call Dave and tell him he needs to come back to the airport and pick us up because they are not going to let us fly without visas.

Sochi Airport

In the Sochi airport trying to find Lucey's bags. Didn't get them until the last day of the trip, lol.

words: Max Warbington

photos: Max Warbington and Sean Lucey

So, there we were. Standing in the Seattle airport about an hour before our flight to Paris was scheduled to board. Ted Borland, Sean Lucy, and me, standing there being told by a lady from Delta that what we thought were tourist visas (required when traveling to Russia) were actually just useless print-outs of an invitation from the camp we were going to visit. Then she asked us how long we were going for and we told her that we had a flight home from Sochi already booked in nine days. Soon as she realized how short our trip was she gave us an apologetic look and told us as nice as she could that we were pretty much not going to Russia.

Think Thank in Russia

If I’m being completely honest, the cancellation of this trip did not come as much of a surprise to the crew as the journey was beyond loose from inception. “Plans are for pussies” is a very popular saying among many of the snowboard crews and none so wholeheartedly embrace that motto the way Think Thank does. None of us had ever used, or even seen, a traveler’s visa before. We had all been on the road for pretty much two months straight leading up to this trip and we had almost no info about this Russia trip other then the fact the we were gonna go, no matter what. So, when we found ourselves standing in the airport being denied by the passport check people, it did not come as a huge surprise.

Ted Borland

They even had a super fun jumpline. Ted, back 180 rocket.

Max Warbington

Look ma, one foot!

Think Thank in Russia

Free champagne in the am? It’s Russia, why not?

Think Thank in Russia

Never seen this at a continental breakfast before.

Think Thank in Russia

On our way out of the Rixos Hotel and down to the village to go party at one of the many huge night clubs that Sochi has to offer for those trying to turn up.

Think Thank in Russia

This was the view out of our room. The Olympic village is somewhere down in that fog.

Think Thank in Russia

Think Thank in Russia

On hill escalator, lol.

Think Thank in Russia

We never got any type of description of the park or the on hill setup at all. You can imagine how stoked we all were to ride around a corner and come across this bad ass view.

We got our bags back off the plane and before we knew it, we were back on Dave Marx’s couch in Green Lake, Seattle. The next day we went downtown on the hunt for visas. After a stop off at the official Russian Conciliate building (of which there are only six in the country), we learned the location of a visa-specific Russian travel agency place in downtown Seattle. We rushed there and just happened to catch the amazing main boss lady of the whole operation. We explained our situation as clearly as possible to this funny, fast-talking Russian woman. Luckily she got the picture and thanks to sweet-talking Dave, she wanted to help us out. Essentially we just needed to get there and show our faces at New Star Camp and we already had our tickets paid for and everything. We had to get over there as fast as possible and as luck would have it, we were talking to what felt like the only person in the world who could actually make this a reality.

Think Thank in Russia

Such a classic Russian shot.

After explaining our story to her, she laid it out for us like this: a normal expedited visa takes at least three days at the very fastest (and at this point that would put us in Russia for only four days). However, because she knew our situation and because Dave Marx is a people person, she said she could have our visas ready for us on the curb at exactly 10 in the morning the following day! This news meant the trip was fully on once again! But, we really had to kick it into high gear because all of a sudden we were back on track to be in Russia not three days later then originally planned!

The big deciding factor here was timing. In order for our visa to be ready on time the next day, we had to complete the entire process before 1:30pm and with all the paperwork, emails, phone calls and everything else that needed done it seemed impossible. After a brief discussion we committed to going for sure, then hit the ground running. We were four clueless dudes in this little office in downtown Seattle taking orders from three ladies with Russian accents in a stuffy, weird, little office. It was a pretty insane scene. lol. Everyone was working as fast as they could to make calls to airlines, take visa photos, contact the people at the camp in Russia, and make sure all of our visa paperwork got completed. It was a tornado of stupidity, hilarity, and pure dedication to this crazy travel lifestyle. Everyone was doing everything at once: Lucey was on the phone trying to get out of an airline ticket change fee; I was helping one of the ladies fill out his paperwork. I found myself yelling ridiculous questions at him across the flurry of planning that was happening in this small room. At one point I actually had to yell out at him, “Lucey! What’s your mother’s maiden name!?” This was by far the craziest trip planning session that I have ever experienced.

Ted Borland and Max Warbington

Dabbing under Big Smooth.

Ted Borland

Fastplant the goddamn gorky out of it, Ted.

Sean Lucey

Sean Lucey is a man who enjoys the finer things.

Ted Borland

Some borscht, Mr. Borland?

Think Thank in Russia

Miniramp down at the main village. Sessions were going off every day on this baby.

Max Warbington

This hip got a lot of love from Ted and I. All the babes on the deck gave us the love right back. Max, front 360

Think Thank in Russia

Wise words.

Think Thank in Russia

Think Thank in Russia

This pool was almost too much.

We got our flights pretty much dialed and most of the paperwork was done and we still had about twenty minutes to spare. Stoked and stupefied, we sat outside the little office and took in some fresh air as the unbelievably helpful Russian visa ladies finished up the last little stuff and prepared the bill for us. This is when they sprung it on us that they could only accept traveler’s checks or cash as payment, which was a big problem as we were looking at a pretty hefty bill and by now we did not have much time left. 
Like a shot out of a cannon, Dave went sprinting away to the closest bank. He busted in the door and right at that moment, got an important call back from an airline. So we were now watching as Miracle Man Marx tried to withdraw a big chunk of change from the bank teller while also on the phone with a small Russian airline trying to make sure we still have flights from Moscow to Sochi. Like a freaking champion he pulled it all off!
 And at 1:29, as we were literally running back through the door of the visa place we were greeted by a proud look from our main awesome boss lady. Right there we knew that this rogue Russia trip was fully back on.

Ted Borland

Right after this American backlip, Bonus let a Russian 450 fly.

With all the extreme planning finished, we drove away from the little hole-in-the-wall office and back to our spot to repack and crash for the night. Flights were booked and we were in a daze. We still needed to be at the curb of the visa place at 9am to pick up our passports with complete visas. We also needed to be at the airport by 11am and we had to triple check that the people at the camp still knew we were coming and would be there to pick us up in Sochi. In just two short days we had already tried to go to Russia and failed, gave up pretty much all hope, figured it was worth it to go downtown and try to figure it out, got ordered around by an awesome little Russian lady, struggled on the phone with airlines, ran to the bank and back as fast as we could, did all the crazy things that are necessary when pulling a move like this, fully committed to the trip for the second time, and now we are back at Dave’s house in Seattle repacking for a trip to Russia.

By some miracle, everything went smooth the next day! We got our passports with legit visas included, made it to the airport on time and our visas checked out. We made all of our connections and about thirty-five travel hours later, Ted and I met Lucey at baggage claim in the tiny Sochi airport. Lucey had different connections than we did and that put him in Sochi way before us. He had been there for hours trying to find out what happened to both of his bags. He didn't have his board bag or clothes bag, but luckily for us he did have his camera bag and his computer and all the real necessities for a snowboard trip. We met up with our dude Andre from New Star Camp, he loaded us into a crazy taxi and we started driving away from the Black Sea and the town of Sochi up into the Russian mountains. None of us had a clue about where we were staying or what any of the area would look like or anything. It was the middle of the night and all we could see through the window of the cab was construction. Not one car passed us on our way up to the Olympic village. We were all actually kind of freaked out when we started to drive past what looked like the main base area. The driver was not saying much, but as we started snaking up a really sketchy road that switchbacked straight up the mountain, he explained that our hotel was up at the midway station of the gondola. We passed through an armed checkpoint and into a very fancy little compound of hotels, restaurants and ski lifts-- same as any large resort here in the states—and we were dropped off at the Rixos Hotel and Spa. Up until this point, we were very apprehensive about this mission and it seemed like we just couldn't catch a break, but the moment we stepped in the door to this mansion of a hotel we knew this trip was going to fucking rule.

Max Warbington

#Gorkygorod in full effect. Handsprings are the money.

Max Warbington

We struck the gold mine.

Think Thank in Russia

What up Travis? Heard you wanted me and Ted to send in some jib footy for Fourth Phase?

Think Thank in Russia

Boilermakers are a no go. lol.

Think Thank in Russia

Crab chips are the jump off.

Think Thank in Russia

Cool double exposure of Lucey, a funny sign and very nice little cat that was chillin’ all the way at the top of the gondola.

By the time we actually had made it to our room and into bed, it must have been 3am and we had been traveling for like forty hours (100+ if you count our first attempt. haha). We passed out and in the morning woke up to an incredible view from our room and the very best complementary hotel breakfast I think I will ever experience. All of the stress and hard work to make this trip happen completely wiped away.

Stoked, full of crepes, and ready to check out the hill, we met up with Andre who came through with some rental gear for Lucey. He took the morning and showed us around the mountain, all of us so pumped to be boarding in Russia for the first time. On hill was a huge party. New Star is an adult snowboard camp that is pretty much 50/50 snowboarding/partying. Every day at the bottom of the park there was a massive party complete with DJs blasting music, super hot girls, lots of beer, and a bunch of wild ass Russian vacationers. The park was also pretty insane and we had a blast filming and shredding all over that place.

We spent the remaining five days of our trip living the good life: five star accommodations, amazing pool and spa, great food, epic parties, fun snowboarding, hilarious footage and good times. It all seemed so surreal, and given the fact that none of us had any clue what it would be like--and given the other fact that we had been sleeping on couches and living like dirtbags while filming all winter--this trip was heaven sent. Truly an unforgettable experience that I hope one day we will get to relive, just maybe without the whole “visa panic” part, lol.

Huge thanks to Andre and everyone at New Star Camp, Jesse, Dave and everyone at Gnu and Lib Tech, Bonus, Sean Lucey, Ted Borland, everyone at Dave’s house, the nice lady from Delta who helped us, and especially the amazing women at the little Russian visa place in Seattle. We literally couldn't have done it without you guys :)