When it comes to finding wave sets and connecting with the water in Alaska, a few factors are at play; What kind of gear you have, what kind of beach or island to use as a destination, and the type of wave set your interested in. Although Alaska might not have the warm and tropical temperatures as other volcanic shorelines, it has elements that you cannot experience anywhere else.
The best part is, you can usually get the beaches all to yourself. Whether it’s a day trip, a short multi-day in a helicopter or boat, or a full-on expedition, there are options and accessibility to surf Alaska’s waves. Some of the best destinations include Seward, Kodiak, and Sitka. Spring and fall are the times with the best combination of daylight as well as continuous and consistent waves sets, so keep that in mind while planning your trip.
Surf Guides, Gear, and Shops
If you don’t feel like bringing your gear, or maybe your ready to buy a new set-up, there are shops and guides to help you out along the way. One guide shop, Alaska Surf Guides, are based out of Seward and are a go-to for remote surfing adventures. They offer a day-long helicopter supported trip where you’ll get the opportunity to explore and surf a unique remote beach. With the helicopter trip you get the perk of having some scenic flight time on the way back. You can even take a retired commercial fishing boat on a multi-day expedition.
Need some local help and advice? One shop located in Yakutat, is a small family-run business and a must for any one curious about surfing in the natural beauty of Alaska. Stop by to rent wetsuits, surfboards, and SUP boards. These folks can point you to nearby beaches and the locals are usually quite friendly and can show you some good spots for waves sets. Please be respectful of the beaches and kind within the culture, remember you are a visitor to these areas and others’ home.
If you happen to be flying into Anchorage, Ocean Swell Ventures is there to help with boat-based surf trips. Surf Alaska utilizes their boat, the M/V Milo, to help folks get out further. They also offer SUP trips and operate a surf shop in Seward.
Exploring the Beaches
Some popular spots to check out would be, Cannon Beach in Yakutat. It is mentioned to have that squishy bottom but is located on the mainland so you don’t have to island hop as much. This beach is optimal in the summer months because of the offshore wind. Fossil Beach of of Kodiak Island is another choice beach. You’ll have to access this shore by plane or boat. This swell has a cobblestone bottom to break on so you can expect a more consistent wave set there.
In Sika, there is a shoal wall to enjoy to nice rollers. It is a 30 minute boat ride from the shoreline. This set can have some large swells, some even up to 15 ft. While in Sitka, check out the Sea Lion Cove for another set if you’re up for it. Caveat, you do have to take about an hour long walk to get to the shore by the Sea Lion Trail. This cove has two sides; the northside is for big swells that can crank in at 20 ft. while the southside has way more beginner friendly sets to check out. If you are looking for road accessible sites in Sitka there is Sandy Beach just down the road.
Surfing with the Alaskan Elements
Surfing in Alaska is like no other for a variety of reasons. As mentioned before, optimal times to plan this destination surf experience are in the fall and spring seasons. This is due to the light available and ice sheet formations. And yes, the water is quite brisk and temperatures can dip into the thirties. Another notable feature to consider is the lower salt quantity, so you will have less buoyancy while you’re out. Consider a board with more float when you head out. On the bright side of the cold temperatures, you wont have to worry about reef wave breaks as much. Alaska’s shoresides do have sandbars and point breaks to be considerate of though.
This kind of ocean will have you looking at cold water gear alone with all the attachments. That means 5mm wetsuits, hoods, and gloves. The whole nine yards. The name of the game is to reduce skin exposure as much as you can.
If you’re into some high adventure with low temperatures, surfing in Alaska should be added to your bucket list. Let the smell of brine draw you in, the boats tow you out, and find your way through the sets. It is a great way to have some adventure in the ocean and get to know the beauty of Alaska. You’ll be able to spot lots of wild life and maybe even take the time to enjoy the small fishing towns along the way. This is a great way to connect with the beautiful landscapes and oceanside that Alaska shorelines have to offer.