If you are looking to score some summer waves in Alaska Kodiak and Yakutat are two well known spots to consider visiting.
In the archives you can find a four part report from a surf trip to Yakutat. Part One, Two, Three, Four. Now it’s Kodiak’s turn. Having been a few years since I’ve surfed Kodiak myself, I reached out for this post to a Surf Alaska follower Caroline Goodman. She was kind enough to share her story and answer a few questions on the surf scene in Kodiak. If you enjoy the interview thank her in the comments, she’s done us all a great favor here.
SURF ALASKA: Please introduce yourself – Where you learned to surf, where you have surfed mostly, where else in Alaska have you surfed, long board or short, whats too big, what’s too small.
CAROLINE: I started surfing at the age of 28. We moved to Oahu 4 years ago [from Alaska I believe], my husband is in the Coast Guard so we were lucky enough to be stationed there. I’ve always wanted to learn how to surf and wasted no time. The three of us took surf lessons from the beach boys next to Dukes at Waikiki. I’ve been addicted ever since. Pretty much surfed every day since then until we moved here to Kodiak. Surfed most of the surf breaks of Oahu. I consider the eastside, Kailua town my homebreak. It breaks like the North shore, especially in the winter. There is always waves there. Its a different story here on Kodiak. I was pretty nervous about surfing here in Alaska. I knew that I had to get in the water right away to convince myself my life wasn’t over as a surfer. So I rented a longboard from the local surf shop and drove out of town to surf 3 mile. It was a gloomy misty kinda of day but the water was super glassy and the waves were about waist high. I had the whole place to myself! Something I’m not used too coming from Hawaii. I put on my wetsuit totally unsure of the whole thing. Then it was go time. Paddled out and caught my first wave. I was super stoked….stoked there were waves, stoked to have a break all to myself, stoked that it was beautiful and stoked that I was warm. Maybe a little too warm, I had to pull off my hoody!
I am a longboarder at heart. I like 9 ft high performance longboards, the kind you can shred or just cruise and hang 5. I’m still working on hanging 10. I surf everything from ankle biters to double over head. Caught my two biggest waves at Makaha and a secret place on the eastside of Oahu. Those waves were in the 15ft to 16ft face value. I’ve only lived here on Kodiak for a couple of weeks and so far the biggest waves I’ve had were head high.
SURF ALASKA: How consistent is Kodiak? How many days a week on average can you expect to surf?
CAROLINE: Kodiak is pretty consistent. You could probably surf everyday if you really wanted too. It’s pretty small though. One weekend we had some over head waves. That lasted for a couple of days but I think it’s mostly waist to shoulder high when the waves are good. I mostly surf on the weekends because I like a little company. I know that sounds crazy, but I’m kind of scared of the local marine life…mainly the sea lions. So far they’ve just been a little curious. But still, they’re huge!! And they like to surf too. Won’t catch me droppin on one of those locals 🙂
SURF ALASKA: How do we get to the waves, or are they local secret spots?
CAROLINE: In the summer the waves are out the road. That’s what the locals call driving out to Pasagshak. I only know of two surf spots. The first one you’ll see is called Surfers Beach or 3 mile. Its a 45 minute drive out to a little fishing village called Pasagshak. Past Pasagshak you come to the first beach accessible by road. It’s three miles of sandy beach and fun on waist high to a little overhead size waves. When we get a good sized swell it kinda closes out. There isn’t a channel when it’s over head so it’s kinda hard to get out to the front line when you’re paddling a longboard. I think it would be fun on a shortboard. It gets pretty hollow when it’s big. When the waves start to close out the locals go to a place called Fossil Beach. It’s just down the road. There’s two spots you can surf. On the left side of the beach is one called Lefts and it’s kinda like a point break. On the right is a fun spot where you can surf the sandy shore break. Fossil beach can handle the bigger swells. The big rocks and beds of seaweed help shape better waves.
In the winter the waves are in town. The most well known spot is Mill Bay. I haven’t surfed it yet but I hear it gets pretty juicy in the winter. You can see clips of the locals shredding it on youtube.
SURF ALASKA: Are the locals friendly to visiting surfers in general?
CAROLINE: The locals are pretty friendly. But new people totally stick out around here. I met a trio of locals that pretty much surf everyday. They were helpful with answering my questions and hooked me up when I was all bummed out when I couldn’t handle the 9 ft shore break at 3 mile. They told me about fossil beach! I was so stoked! The other group of surfers I see all the time on the weekends is a small surfing family. True Alaskan family. Dads surfing, moms hanging out on the beach next to the campfire and chasing their giggling naked babies. I think if you want to get to know the local surfers it helps to bring a six pack of good beer. There’s a local microbrewery here that they seem to enjoy 🙂
SURF ALASKA: What’s a crowded day in Kodiak look like? how many in the water? The vibe?
CAROLINE: The biggest crowd we’ve seen so far was about 10 people in the water. Besides the usuals it’s mostly biggners I think. Surfing has kinda taken off here on Kodiak. Every time I’m driving on the road I see at least one vehicle with a board or two on the racks. There’s folks here that have been surfing this island for 20 years.
SURF ALASKA: For the summer, what thickness of suit are you happy in?
CAROLINE: The only wetsuit I have right now is a 6/5/4 mm. I wanted a pretty thick wetsuit since I’m not used to surfing in cold water. But honestly I think I could go lighter. The water temp is usually around 48 to 50 degrees. I get pretty hot in my wetsuit. I like to wear a bathing suit underneath it and sometimes its dry, but if it isn’t, it’s because I was sweating.
SURF ALASKA: Any tips for visiting surfers? Such as who to contact, where to stay, things to bring for making quick friends with the locals . . .?
CAROLINE: Visiting surfers should definitely check out our local surf/scuba shop. Its called Scuba Do and they have a website. They have all the info you need to know about surf and weather conditions. Sandy, the owner, has been super helpful with surf gear and where to go. You can rent what ever you need from a wetsuit to what ever size board you like to ride.
SURF ALASKA: How does surfing Kodiak compare with Hawaii?
CAROLINE: Hawaii and Alaska are equal in beauty. I like to refer to Kodiak as Hawaii’s 9th island. I’m just stoked there’s surf and surf for all levels. There isn’t as much surf here in Kodiak as there is in Hawaii but at least there’s surf. I’m used to perfect peeling reef breaks. Here it’s a bit different. What I’ve surfed so far has been fast shorebreak because of the sandy bottom. The huge boulders and kelp beds kinda act like a reef break but it’s different. I feel like I’m a biggner again. Surfing with a wetsuit in cold water is very challenging. It’s very new and that makes me timid. In Hawaii I’d just roll out of bed and roll into the water with my board. You have to prepare when you want to surf in Alaska. You really gotta check the weather and tides because its a long drive out and you don’t want to be let down if the surf isn’t good. Then you got to get all your gear together, pack water, extra clothes, fishing poles, stuff to make a fire and goodies to eat…it’s usually an all day affair. Alaska and Alaska surf isn’t for everyone. If you like empty line ups, wide open spaces, pristine water, spectacular mountains, salmon, berries, abundance of wildlife, zero traffic and don’t mind the cold…you’ll love it!
SURF ALASKA: Let me be the first to thank you for taking the time to tell your story of surfing in Alaska and share some information for us all!
If any of you other readers catching waves in Alaska would be willing to share in this way please contact me. I’d love to get more interviews like this on the site.