Frequently Asked Questions
Just getting started here on some Frequently Asked Questions, or I should say answers, if you can call them that. These answers also inspired the Surf Alaska E-Book, which we highly recommend reading whether you are actually looking to surf in Alaska or just fascinated by it.
Is surfing in Alaska cold?
Ok, so maybe nobody actually asks this question, but I know it’s on your mind. The answer – it’s relative. Sometimes the water is the warmest place around. In the middle of winter we often surf with air temperatures below 10ºF while the water rarely dips below 35ºF. Taking photos of surfing in Alaska however is just plain cold.
Why do you do it? Are you nuts?
We surf because it’s fun. If it wasn’t fun, we wouldn’t do it. So far none of us Alaskan surfers have figured out how to make this into a job (if you have any ideas please (contact me). Are we nuts? I don’t think so, we just love surfing and it turns out that surfing in remote, uncrowded and incredibly scenic surf spots is really super fun.
Do you wear a drysuit?
No. Drysuits and surfing don’t actually mix that I’m aware of, the whole thing with laying on a fiberglass board paddling through crushing waves necessitates wearing a kind of rubbery suit that sticks to the sticky waxed board. Also wetsuits are much more comfortable in the water than drysuits without air regulation (think diving drysuits). Surf kayakers typically wear drysuits. I have both and the drysuit is only for kayaking.
What gear do I need to surf in Alaska?
This depends on who what where and of course when. If you want to surf a couple times during the hottest July day you don’t need much. If you want to surf in Cook Inlet during a cold snap and winter storm death combo your gear requirements are something different. Since most people that ask this are wondering about the more extreme winter conditions I’ll answer it that way. For the summer months July-Sept. surfing Alaska is much like Oregon or Washington.
- A surf board or other water craft for wave sliding.
- Wetsuit – 6mm thick or some combination like a 6/5mm with a hood. You can certainly get by with less, I did for years (leaky 4/3 hand me down). But a modern 6/5mm suit is really really nice. Even better maybe you can afford a heated wetsuit or heated vest for the coldest days. If you have to scrounge just make do with what you can find.
- Booties – 7mm and you’ll be glad you did. Your feet and hands will go numb first so be ready with 7mm of rubber.
- Gloves/mittens – I personally love the 7mm mittens. Some guys like the three finger or lobster style gloves. But when it’s really cold the mittens rock. I don’t mind the lack of dexterity, it’s really not much less than a thick glove in the end. I can even operate my camera in a surf housing with them on so I figure that’s plenty of proof.
- Warm water to dump into your suit, in your gloves, and booties. I store a gallon or so in an insulated jug that I leave in my car wrapped up in my winter jacket. This can either save your life, make you smile, or win you some major points with your friends. Don’t hesitant to drink it either – warming from the inside out.
- We have also been known to enjoy a heated vest, our favorite from HeatedWetsuits.com.
What time of year is best for an Alaskan surf trip?
Spring and Fall tend to have the most reliable surf, combined with the most reasonable weather and plenty of daylight. April and September are probably our favorite months with good times to be had on either side a month or two. Check out Ocean Swell Ventures for more on this.