Gliding over a thin layer of frost carpeting D-Dock in Seward Harbor, I had a little extra pep in my step walking towards Yahtzee. My excitement wasn’t due to another day of work on the boat, rather, it was at the thought of heading south into Resurrection Bay towards the ocean swell for some surfing. Yes, surfing.
Sure, the air temperature was hovering around 40 degrees and the water temperature wasn’t much higher than that, but hey, that’s what wetsuits are for! Just a few slips down from Yahtzee I met up with our dock neighbor, Captain Scott Liska, who runs Alaska Surf Adventures aboard the motor vessel Drekkar. He was pulling out bins of thick neoprene wetsuits, gloves and booties for surfers who arrived and needed the gear.
Hopping aboard with an armload of rubber, I waited with a cup of coffee and some new friends as other surfers straggled down the dock and onto the boat. With about a dozen surf riders of various experience levels ready for a mid-day surf-sesh, we were soon underway out of the marina towards what sounded like a promising break.
About 45 minutes out from the marina Captain Liska told everyone to get geared up and ready to go. Those who had done the trip before were quickly dressed and the rest of us newbies squeezed into our suits wherever we could find room to wriggle.
Now, I might be a waterman, but I am not an accomplished surfer by any stretch of the imagination. So when one of the more experienced guys watched the waves break as we pulled up and said under his breath, “This isn’t a beginner wave.” The butterflies in my stomach felt more like a cave of bats in a full on feeding frenzy.
With adrenaline pumping, I grabbed a board, strapped it to my ankle, tightened my hood one last time and jumped off the side of Drekkar into the chilly blue-green ocean. Fortunately, the suit was a good one and my body was wet yet not cold. Paddling towards the incoming waves — which were large and in charge due to a big low that had been spinning off the Aleutian Islands for the better part of three days — I took a few deep breaths to collect myself.
The first wave I caught was my best of the three and half hours I spent in the water. The sensation of being lifted and propelled forward, sliding with the power of the ocean was awesome — boy did I miss that feeling.
But once I got in near shore, paddling back out into the large breaking seas became serious. The task was tiresome, difficult, and, at times, the waves seemed relentless. Indeed, they were firing. Taking my fair share of spills, the big swell tossed me and others like rag dolls. Each time, though, I’d collect my board and paddle back out for more. Surfing is like that.
Besides the surfing, one of my favorite parts of the entire day was when I got back out past the break and sat up on my board. Catching my breath and letting my muscles rest, I’d look around at the wondrous scene that is surfing in Alaska. A glacier spread out just above the beach, mountains shot up from the ocean and at one point, the sun broke through the clouds to light up the whole awe-inspiring scene. Incredible.
By the end of the session, my shoulders burned, my body was awash with saltwater, my smile was as big as the break and I was ready to crack a beer. That was one hell of a fun time on the water.
Back on the boat, surfers pulled off wet suits, excitedly talked about waves caught and missed, clanked cans of beer and pulled from a flask of whisky that made its way around the aft deck. I soon found myself in the wheelhouse with Captain Liska and a few others to listen to stories of past surf trips and fishing adventures. And if there’s one thing the day was, it was an adventure.
Actually, one of the tag lines on the company’s website summed up the experience perfectly. “More than a surf charter. It’s a f-ing adventure.” Actually, that sums up Alaska in general.