Olympic Skier Julia Mancuso Went Surfing in Sochi
02/20/2014 AT 10:50 AM EST
Off the slopes and looking for something to do, Team USA's Julia Mancuso braved freezing waters for an unlikely Sochi surfing adventure.
"I never thought I'd be surfing in Russia," she tells me.
The 29-year-old downhill skier won a bronze in super-combined and is now the proud owner of four Olympic medals, more than any other female American skier. But the reason I'm writing about her now is a text she told me she received.
It read: "Surf's up tomorrow and we got you a wetsuit and booties. It's time to go!"
Of course, the only place to go surfing around these parts is the Black Sea, which is frighteningly cold. Spend more than about 45 seconds in it and … well, I certainly wouldn't want to spend more than 45 seconds in it.
But the cold doesn't bother a woman of gusto like Mancuso. Besides, Wednesday was her last day in Sochi, so what's a little hypothermia?
"Getting that text was a very pleasant surprise," she says, laughing.
So early in the morning, she met up with a group of Sochi locals who had started the area's first surf club a few years earlier. Before anyone could shout the Russian equivalent of "Cowabunga," she'd pulled on a borrowed wetsuit and was paddling out into the waves.
"It was cold, but it wasn't bad. I didn't have a hoodie [an insulated neoprene hood] on, so I only lasted about 45 minutes. I caught four amazing waves. There were some big sets. Most of the waves were shoulder high," she says. "I caught some incredible waves all the way to the shore, so I was pretty stoked. We surfed up a storm, literally. There was a storm passing through and it died out in about two hours, and the waves were gone after that. We hit it perfect."
I'll say. Perfect. Totally righteous, even.
Tune into NBC tonight for more Olympic action, and check back with PEOPLE.com throughout the day for spoiler-free coverage and more of Johnny's dispatches from the Games.