When one thinks about surfing, the first place to come to mind probably isn’t Alaska.
Adventure photographer Scott Dickersonis trying to change all of that.
Dickerson has been photographing and surfing in Alaska for the last fifteen years, finding all the best local spots and shooting pros and receational surfers for the likes of Red Bull, the New York Times, National Geographic, and others.
He calls himself the unofficial spokesperson for the Alaska surf community, which is a small but dedicated group of individuals willing to weather nearly frigid water temperatures and dangerous, constantly fluctuating tide conditions.
While he’s surfed in more big name destinations such as California, Hawaii and Australia, he says that the biggest difference between Alaska and those spots isn’t the cold water. It’s the empty, breathtakingly beautiful surf spots that never get crowded with other surfers. According to Dickerson, on most days, you’ll be the only person surfing at whatever spot you go to.
With more miles of coastline than the rest of the United States combined, there are no shortage of surf spots to check out. The nature of the Alaskan wild means that the majority of the spots are only accessible by helicopter or boat. Dickerson leads tours using his 58-foot fishing boat and also leads combination heli-skiing and surfing trips with Chugach Powder Guides.
The following photos are from a recent heli-surfing trip Dickerson organised this fall where he surfed the best hidden spots tucked in between the fjords of Alaska.
Dickerson meets his fellow surfers at Seward Airport around sunrise for a full day of surfing. Sunrise in Alaska is around 9:00 am in the Fall. In the summer, it is as early as 4:00 am.
The first spot they go to check out is a short 10-minute helicopter ride away to the Gulf of Alaska.
They land at their first potential location. It's a no go. They quickly move on to the next spot. On any given trip, they might fly to several spots because tide conditions fluctuate wildly from day to day and even hour to hour.
Time to suit up. Water temperatures run from around 29 degrees Fahrenheit to about the mid-40s, depending on the time of year. Once in the water and surfing, Dickerson is actually warm and comfortable in the super thick wetsuits.
Surfs up. The best waves, according to Dickerson, come during or after stormy weather. He describes surfing in Alaska as a battle of 'man versus nature.'
The waves are good on this trip, but the largest waves that Dickerson has surfed in Alaska were about 20-five feet tall on the face.
Because so many people in Alaska are transplants from other parts of the world, many surfers already have surfing experience in more popular places like Hawaii or California.
This experience comes in handy because they'll occasionally encounter ice floes (floating sheets of ice) which they must navigate.
Dickerson camps out for the night on the beach so he can get an early start the next day. The beach isn't a dedicated camping area but, according to Dickerson, Alaska has a free and easy approach to natural lands.
For the second day of surfing, Dickerson and company fly out to a location near the Prince William Sound, off the south coast of Alaska.
More good waves. Many surfers in Alaska are very protective of their 'local' spots, but with nearly 34,000 miles of coastline, there's plenty of surfing to go around.
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