Surf Alaska!

A small crowd waits for the Bore tide.
A small crowd waits for the Bore tide.

August 10, 2022.

I’m sure that surfing isn’t the first thing that pops into your mind when you think of Alaska. And while even in the summer it may be a bit cool for cutoffs and huarache sandals, there is a small surfing scene here. And, luckily, conditions were right for us to check it out.

We saw surfers at Turnagain Arm, which is a long narrow waterway with a wide entrance into the Gulf of Alaska. It was named by William Bligh of the HMS Bounty. He had already been turned back from trying to find a Northwest Passage up the Knik Arm and had to turn back again in this waterway.

When the moon’s phase is close to new or full there is a strong incoming tide from the gulf. When it meets the outgoing tide near Beluga Point a single wave forms. This wave rolls eastward for about forty miles.

So a little scheduling prep is required to surf here. You only get a few waves each month. But there is a reliable tide schedule, and many of these waves are greeted by eager surfers and onlookers.

The tidal effect is called a bore tide. Bore tides occur in several places around the world. The effect can be seen in the rivers joining Nova Scotia’s Bay of Fundy. There used to be a dramatic bore tide where the Colorado River emptied into the Sea of Cortez in Mexico. Now too much water is siphoned off the Colorado. It is no longer a mighty river when it reaches salty water.

Oh, there’s a reason the first major point on Turnagain Arm is named Beluga. Sometimes Beluga whales can be seen following the tidal wave up the channel to feed. We didn’t see any.

For more info about seeing the Bore Tide when you are in Alaska check this link for the schedule and viewing points.

4 thoughts on “Surf Alaska!

  1. Bore tides are an interesting phenomenon. We saw one in the Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia. It was way too small to surf on, but one person tried. This one looks a bit more impressive. Timing surely is of the essence for these surfers, as missing the start of the wave probably means having to wait a week or two longer to try again.

    My ex and I saw Beluga whales in Alaska and I’m wondering if it was near Beluga Point.

    It’s good to see you catching up with blog posts, Duwan. Enjoy Mexico this winter!!

    1. It was fun that the timing worked out and we were able to catch this one.

      I wish we had seen Belugas but no luck. I assume Beluga Point would be an ideal place to watch for them.

      We are enjoying Mexico so far. We have been on the go!

  2. Yes, surfing in Alaska is about the last place in the world one would think of for this activity. At least they can rely on the tide patterns to know when conditions are ripe for surfing.

    1. It must be a real kick for a surfer to surf in Alaska. But I imagine it’s not a good place to learn surfing when you only get one wave a day every few weeks!

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