Ask Baikal

Hi there! My name is Maxim Milyutin. I am based in Irkutsk, Russia's Siberia. Traveller, organiser of local travel talks, and owner of Irkutsk hostel. Travel for me is not necessary movement to some place far away from home, it's a state of soul. That's why I like to travel around my home region and and abroad as well. I'm happy to share my knowledge about Baikal with everybody! Feel free to ask me about Lake Baikal via the contact form Tatiana Baksheeva, our previous blog runner, remains with us as a contributor.

How huge Baikal waves are?

I’ve been recently asked if strong winds ever whip up giant waves on Lake Baikal and where on the lake would large waves be most likely to form.

As in any lake, waves in Lake Baikal arise from the effects of wind on water, on the difference of atmospheric pressure on different parts of the valley, from earthquakes, from the tides, from undersea volcanic eruptions, from the vessels motion and other external forces.

Lake Baikal waves. Photo by

Lake Baikal waves. Photo by

Lake Baikal waves. Photo by

Waves on Lake Baikal may reach a height of 4 meters. Sometimes they evaluated as 5 and even 6 meters, but it is most likely an estimation “by eye”, which has a large error. Height of 4 meters obtained by instrumental measurements on the high seas. The waves are usually strong in autumn and spring, and even in winter before lake freezes. In the summer on Lake Baikal strong waves and storms are rare.

Waves at summer time. Photo courtesy Yaroslav Vityazev

Waves in October. Photo courtesy R.Sinitsina

Waves in January. Photo by

There are winds that blow along the valley, and also transverse winds, that associated with the atmospheric general circulation – transit and local. There are several strongest winds at Lake Baikal:
  • north-western wind – Gorny (Mountain wind);
  • Barguzin, or north-eastern;
  • then Verkhovik (in the northern part of the lake it’s also so-called Angara);
  • Kultuk, or south-western;
  • Shelonnik, or south-eastern wind;
  • and Sarma, north-west wind in the area, opposite the mouth of the Sarma river.
Almost every wind may cause strong waves, but the most severe is Mountain wind. It’s associated with largest disasters at Lake Baikal and is very dangerous for navigation, especially in the middle of the lake. In 2009 during the storm a ship was thrown to the coast, none of the four crew members were injured.

4 comments to How huge Baikal waves are?

  • Barry Crump

    Thanks for the information. More people are surfing waves in lakes now and I guessed that such a large lake like Baikal must have some large ridable surf. These photos are enough to show it is possible. Have you ever seen anybody surf these waves?

  • Tatiana

    Hello, Barry, thank you for your question! Laka Baikal water temperature is quite cold even during summer months – about 18-20C, so I have never seen people surfing at Baikal. And one more thing – wind is very unpredictable.

  • Steve

    Great pics, Tatiana! Thank you for the information! I too was wondering about surfing on Lake Baikal. I live near and surf on Lake Superior. Our ‘great lake’ also has water temps that stay very cold all year but that doesn’t stop dedicated surfers. A good wetsuit can keep you surprisingly warm in cold water. Lake Superior does not usually get above 10C, even in summer….and we mostly surf it in the winter! I’m sure it will only be a matter of time before you see someone surfing on Lake Baikal.

  • Josh Hug

    I’ll note that even 18 celsius is actually pretty warm for surfing. In San Francisco, the normal water temperature is ~10 celsius.

    In the midwestern US, people surf when the water temperatures are only 3 or 4 degrees celsius:

    Here’s a well narrated video:
    And here are some especially good waves:

    Surfing culture, obviously, is not very big in inner Siberia, but I bet there’s a decent surfing day on the lake from time to time. All it would take is a little motivation and a surfboard.