Surf’s up in Alaska, and the kind that convinced Tyler Gennick to move from San Diego, California, to Anchorage.
“Long, beautiful, glassy, a little wild at times but amazing, all in one,” Gennick said describing this weather phenomenon. “Little colder water, little thicker wet suit, beautiful scenery. You got the mountains all behind you and the snow covered peaks. It really doesn’t get much better than this.”
Gennick is not alone, as both on-lookers and surfers come from all over the world to the Turnagain Arm, just south of the largest city in the state, to experience a bore tide.
“As it pushes up in certain areas of the channel, the shape is just right so it forms this wave that you can actually surf,” said Murphy Gardner, who works for Turnagain Arm Surf Company. “And you can ride it for maybe over a mile.”
This tidal phenomenon is a daily occurrence following low tide in an inlet when you have the clash of the tide coming in with the tide going out in a long & narrow channel.
“It’s just the right length to create kind of a sloshing effect of the tides,” said a representative from the Alaska National Parks Service. “All tides we know come in for six hours and then they go out for six hours.”
This “surf wave” can build up to a height of six feet and move up to 10 to 15 miles per hour along a path spanning 40 to 50 miles.
“It works its way up Turnagain Arm, and you can leapfrog it with your car,” an Alaska NPS representative said. “You can get ahead of it and watch it come by and do this over and over all the way from Beluga Point all the way up to Portage.”
If you want to see one of these rare events, make sure to be in place to watch or ride a bore tide at least 30 minutes before the forecast tide.
Just know that the water will calm down just before it arrives!
Also, always remember they can be dangerous, so make sure to stay off mud flats and enjoy them from somewhere that’s safe.