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Wilderness, Water, and (Rubber) Women Add up to a Weird Russian Adventure


Created: 23.08.2004 23:49 MSK (GMT +3), Updated: 15:59 MSK


Anastasiya Lebedev




If you’ve ever seen a rubber woman, you know it must take a lot of imagination to, er, handle her the way you’re supposed to. Some Russian men and women apparently have even more imagination to spare — 126 of them used inflatable sex dolls as flotation devices to raft down rapids in the vicinity of St. Petersburg.


The second Bubble Baba Challenge (in Russian, baba stands for “woman,” only unlike the other word for woman, zhenschina, conveys not a shred of respect) was held on the Vuoksa river that runs in northwestern Russia a year after the first contest. Dmitry Bulawinov, the mastermind and organizer behind the unusual sporting event, says the idea of floating down the river in the embraces of a rubber woman was conceived as a joke at a party where the men got drunk and the women didn’t show up. While considering the possible uses for a rubber woman on a camping trip, someone voiced the thought that a sex doll would make a handy flotation device.


It’s far from the strangest idea that has ever come into the heads of imbibing camping aficionados, but unlike many other concepts of equal genius, this one was realized in life. Bulawinov set about advertising the sex doll rafting adventure opportunity online, and, ten months later, in August 2003, Bubble Baba Challenge 1 participants were eagerly hurling themselves through roaring rapids, buoyed by pneumatic breasts and hips.


“I went to the first race thinking it was going to be a celebration of idiocy,” says Victor Kuryashkin, a 31-year-old programmer and old-time camper who came in third in this year’s race and won last year’s sex doll design contest. “I think the potential sponsors had the same attitude toward the event. But Dmitry’s [bulawinov] crew managed to create a good contest.” He used the same “flotation device” both times, which, he underscores, he doesn’t think of as a woman — he even painted “her” in camouflage colors and named her “The Nimble Missile Breast-Carrier.”


Alexander Korolyov, a 45-year-old owner of an active recreation tour company and a life-long swimmer, came in first last year, second this year, and plans to participate in future contests, as well as refer his clients for joining in, says that the event is essentially a swimming race. He doesn’t really think of it as much of a match, though — “It’s just fun, I don’t treat it as a contest. It’s just a reason to go out of town for a weekend, to fool around.” Still, this year he brought home an inflatable mattress as a trophy, while last year’s award “was very immodest” and “too awkward to talk about.”


Although vastly outnumbered by men excited about floating down the river atop a rubber chick, women did compete in the contest, finding nothing odd about using such unusual “lifesavers.” Bulawinov and other organizers try to be fair and leave open the option of floating down on rubber men dolls, but unfortunately, they can’t rent them out like they do the rubber women. “The men are too expensive, we can’t afford them,” he complains. The lack of manly lifesavers did not deter Olga Alexandrova, a third category swimmer. The 23-year-old photographer and designer finds “nothing strange” whatsoever about the event and will “certainly” participate next year — “I want to win!” she says.


Next year, however, might not happen if Bulawinov does not sort out his troubles with the local mafia, who demand rent money for the use of the river. In a truly Russian twist on event, the local toughs, sure that the rafting enthusiasts are making money off the weird race, called Bulawinov with threats the next day after he put up flyers about the contest. “They called and said, what are you setting up, why weren’t we informed, you owe us money, if you don’t give us money, we’ll screw it all up.”


Bulawinov tries to not pass his concerns to the race participants, though — everyone went home happy. “The participants wore life vests — if you lose the girl, which is against the rules, you won’t drown, even if you can’t swim. But the woman, she helped many people, the rapids are so bad that sometimes you don’t see the swimmer for five seconds, and then all of a sudden out he comes straddling the chick, happy and spewing water.”

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