“Walking through the snow to get to the ocean is a first for me.”
Surfer Jamie Sterling (on surfing in Alaska)
“Everybody in the United States, and around the world, at some time at any age has seen a picture of people surfing and went, ‘Wow, I’d like to do that,’ but not everyone lives near the beach…that’s why [wakesurfing] is growing so rapidly.”
When you think of surfing do you think of places like California and Hawaii or places like Alaska and Wyoming? Malibu or Munich? While not quite mainstream yet, surfing is popping up all over the world in unlikely places. And interesting things happening in unlikely places is definitely one of the themes of this blog. Life beyond the Santa Monica Pier.
The most pure surfer I personally know is my longtime friend Steve Trobaugh. I first met him 30 years ago when he gave me a photography job at Yary Photography in Southern California while I was still in film school. (Another Yary photographer at that time was Sean Collins who went on to start a company known to surfers around the world—Surfline. And yet another freelance shooter at Yary then was Peter Brouilllet who was also shooting for Surfer Magazine.)
Steve was surfing long before I met him and now at age 60 is still surfing. He lives in the San Diego area and has basically built his life around surfing. When I spoke with Steve on the phone the other day he’d just finished surfing Trestles at San Onofre State Beach. These days he also teaches surfing and paddleboarding at the Hotel del Coronado. (That hotel is where much of the classic film Some Like it Hot was filmed, and where guests over the years have included Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, Errol Flynn, Gloria Swanson, James Stewart and stars of today.)
After I graduated from film school I tried to emulate that beach life style. After my traveling adventure of driving around the country for a couple of months I landed in Seal Beach, California in a studio apartment 50 steps from the beach where all I owned was a box spring for a bed, some clothes, a Nikon camera, TV/VCR, a few books, and a surfboard. But that lifestyle didn’t last long, because my obsession with film was stronger than my obsession with surf.
I moved to Burbank and haven’t lived close to the beach since. (Though a summer stroll down Main Street in Cedar Falls, Iowa is actually closely akin to strolling down Main Street in Seal Beach.) And during that time I did get to have one memorable experience bodysurfing “The Wedge” in Newport Beach with 8-10 foot waves. (Without fins I could have landed on the rocks at the jetty, and probably ended up sleeping with the fishes.) It was the closest experience to flying, but it was just one day. But like skiing a perfect day on the Back Bowls at Vail, one day can last a long time in your memory bank.
If you ever wonder why you ride the carousel
You do it for the stories you can tell
John Sebastian/Stories We could Tell
But there’s always that’s unique pull to the beach and ocean, and I think that pull is universal—which explains why surfing is popping up in unusual places. You don’t even need sun or sand, just water.
Surfing in Alaska
Surfing on “The Other North Shore” (Lake Superior)
You don’t even need an ocean to surf some “double overhead waves.” Surfing Beaver Bay in Duluth, Minnesota up to Canada definitely puts the north in the other North Shore experience.
Surfing in Wyoming
You don’t even need an ocean. Just a board, a wet suit and the Snake River in Wyoming.
Don’t try this at home…
Surfing in Iowa
Here’s an example of wakesurfing I found on You Tube that was shot not far from my office.
Surfing the Jungle
No sharks or jellyfish, but keep an eye out for crocodiles and piranha.
I believe the longest non-stop surfboard ride is still British surfer Steve King who rode on the River Severn in the UK for 7.6 miles. There’s a river in Munich, Germany where this is also popular.
Texas Tanker Surfing
While singer/surfer Jimmy Buffett didn’t get a 7.6 mile ride tanker surfing off Galveston, Texas with tankersurfcharters, he did say his 4 minute 21 second ride was the longest he’d ever ridden.
Surfing in the Desert
Here’s a video of a wave pool in Dubai, Saudi Arabia.
Surfing in the Future
The movie The Endless Summer helped kickstart the modern-day surfing movement, now surf champ Kelly Slater and his company are working on the endless wave.
Breakdown by surfer Jack Johnson