by Laura  

Most students of Russian first encounter the word кататься in the phrases кататься на лыжах “to ski” and кататься на коньках “to skate.” A single skate is a конёк or “little horse.” If you use your imagination, you can see how an ice skate might look a little like a horse. Roller skates are called роликовые коньки, more commonly known as ролики, so you can also кататься на роликах.

Кататься is a handy verb that refers to any kind of motion for fun. It often translates the English “ride” or “take a ride.” The perfective is покататься.

кататься на велосипедеgo for a bike ride
кататься на мотоциклеride a motorcycle
кататься на вездеходеride an ATV
кататься на квадроциклеride a four-wheeler
кататься верхомto ride a horse

For all of the above, use ездить instead of кататься if you are traveling for transportation rather than for fun:

Лужков призывает ездить на велосипедах.[Mayor of Moscow] Luzhkov calls for travelling by bike.
Вы не сможете ездить на мотоцикле без определённой доли агрессивности.You won’t be able to travel by motorcycle without a certain amount of aggressiveness.

More riding for fun:

кататься на скейтбордеto go skateboarding
кататься на сноубордеto go snowboarding
кататься на лошадке-качалке (на качалке-лошадке)to ride on a rocking horse
кататься на качеляхto swing on the swings

Amusement park rides are called аттракционы:

кататься на аттракционахto go on the rides
кататься на американских горкахto ride the roller coaster
кататься на чёртовом колесеto ride the ferris wheel
кататься на каруселиto ride the carousel

Some English words ending in –ing turn into this rather peculiar set of coinages:

кататься на сёрфингеto go surfing
кататься на тюбинге (also на тюбингах)to go tubing
кататься на виндсёрфингеto go windsurfing

Sometimes this verb is used for things you don’t ordinarily ride on for fun:

Колёса у детского рабочего кресла обязательно фиксируются: малец должен учиться, а не кататься на стуле. ¹ (source)The wheels of a child’s desk chair must be immobilized: the youngster is supposed to be studying, not riding around in his chair.
Московские бизнесмены поехали кататься на танке и задавили солдата.Moscow businessmen went for a ride in a tank and crushed a soldier. (source)


Comment from: longrun [Visitor]

“Малец” is colloquial, but it’s perfectly Russian. The fact that Russian “малец” and Ukrainian “малеча” have the same roots means only that both these languages derive from Old Russian.

Don responds: one of the perils of writing about a language as a foreigner is that you accept the comments of native speakers without triple checking them. In this case my primary native informant had told me that малец was a Ukrainian word. The first Russian dictionary I checked did not have the word, so I deduced she was correct and added a footnote to that effect to Laura’s entry. Upon receiving Longrun’s comment, I checked the first two Russian dictionaries I had at hand, and sure enough both of them have малец. Longrun is correct. I have removed the erroneous footnote. Please note that the error was mine, not Laura’s. Thank you, Longrun!

04/16/09 @ 15:06
Comment from: Laura [Member]

It may be “incorrect"–and certainly sounds odd to anyone who knows English–but this coinage seems to be gaining currency among aficionados of these sports. Here’s one example: http://www.surf-riding.ru/news/1698/

04/07/09 @ 07:06
Comment from: Maryaska [Visitor]

And the same about windsurfing. “Заниматься виндсёрфингом".

Some russians also say “cёрфить” - that’s a verb.

Don responds: One of the aspects of knowing a language natively (or in my case learning it half decently as a foreigner) is the joy you get when you see people playing with the language, and the unexpected laughter that bursts out of you when you suddenly encounter a new coinage. That’s what struck me when I first saw the phrase «кататься на сёрфинге». I laughed out loud. This is not a simple case of someone making a grammatical error. This is language playing, shifting, dancing. This is the stuff of which joyful language is made. I did some Google searching on the phrase, and the first thing I was struck with was just how many of the hits came from sites that specifically dealt with the sport of surfing in its various forms. That implies to me that this phrase is specifically developing inside the Russian-language surfing community:

Научиться кататься на серфинге несложно. (surf-riding.ru) It’s not hard to learn to surf.
Мы теперь учим кататься на серфинге. (windclub.ru) We are now giving surfing lessons.
Он всегда был счастлив, когда катался на серфинге. (onwave.ru) He was always happy when he was surfing.

The usage isn’t restricted to surfing sites. Even pravda.ru has used it:

На крики о помощи к ней подоспел ее двоюродный брат, который катался на серфинге метрах в 30 от места атаки, и спас родственницу от акульих зубов. (pravda.ru) Her cousin, who was surfing about 30 meters from the attack, sped to her side in response to her cries for help and saved his relative from the shark’s teeth.
В свободное от тренировок время Дэвид обожает прогуливаться по пляжу с отцом и кататься на серфинге. (peoples.ru) When he is not training, David adores surfing and walking on the beach with his father.
И полгода они перемещаются по миру, тратя деньги только на билеты и еду, с одной целью - кататься на серфинге. (overclockers.ru) They have been traveling around the world for half a year, spending money only on tickets and food, with a single goal: surfing.

I was also struck by the thought that the word серфинг has been reinterpreted from meaning the process to meaning the board itself. Heaven only knows if that’s right, but that’s my educated guess.

Last but not least, here’s my count of hits on the various phrases as of today, April 6, 2009:

PhraseGoogle hits
кататься на сёрфинге1,730
катался на сёрфинге194
каталась на сёрфинге145
каталось на сёрфинге1
катались на сёрфинге108
катаюсь на сёрфинге242
катаешься на сёрфинге5
катается на сёрфинге160
катаемся на сёрфинге220
катаетеся на сёрфинге10
катаются на сёрфинге307
покататься на сёрфинге316
покатался на сёрфинге7
покаталась на сёрфинге6
покаталось на сёрфинге0
покатались на сёрфинге56
покатаюсь на сёрфинге1
покатаешься на сёрфинге1
покатается на сёрфинге0
покатаемся на сёрфинге4
покатаетесь на сёрфинге0
покатаются на сёрфинге0

04/04/09 @ 03:20
Comment from: Maryaska [Visitor]

“кататься на сёрфинге” - this is not correct.
“Заниматься сёрфингом” - that’s correct.
“Сёрфинг” is a process, so you cannot ride it :)

04/04/09 @ 03:18

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