Surf’s Up – Once Every Twelve Hours
By Emily Maxwell
Surfing, a sport which might evoke images of palm trees, bleached blonde surfers and lush, tropical beaches isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when one considers the plentiful adventures that Alaska has to offer.
But Pete Beachy and his Bird Creek-based tour company, TA (Turnagain Arm) Surf Co., are showing clients that the adventurous Alaskan spirit can be stoked by catching a ride on the bore tide.
Beachy grew up bodysurfing on the Great Lakes in Michigan but never bought a surfboard until 2011 while living in Alaska. That year, he taught himself to surf in Turnagain Arm. Back then, surfing the bore tide wasn’t a popular activity and he was often by himself on the wave.
“I kept a journal from day one because there was no one to watch or follow back when I started, so I would write down times and locations to learn the wave and get the timing.”
The Turnagain Arm bore tide, one of many bore tides around the world, is a phenomenon in which the incoming tide causes a wave which travels against the inlet’s current.
Although he spent much of his early days alone on the wave, Beachy has seen the popularity of surfing the tide grow. He says August is the busiest month, with up to 10-15 surfers per wave.
Beachy has surfed the arm in every month of the year, once completing a streak of 36 consecutive months of surfing between 2014 and 2016. He owes this to the unseasonably low amounts of ice during those winters. Whether or not the arm is surfable through winter months is dictated by the ice walls that form along the edges of the channel.
Beachy attests to once being saved by friend and fellow surfer Simon Garrard, who used a rope to haul Beachy up one of the walls when he was unable to get out himself. Garrard, who’s been surfing the arm since the 1980’s, wrote a comprehensive etiquette guide for bore tide surfers, similar to other high-traffic surfing locations around the world.
Beachy started TA Surf Co. in 2016, saying, “I was taking my friends everyday anyway, so I decided to start the company to help share the wave with people.”
He works with both new and experienced surfers and has made accessibility a key part of the tour. TA Surf Co offers tours from May to September, with tours tailored to experience level. Recently, Beachy brought Kayla Hoog-Fry and Guy Eriksen, acroyoga instructors and fellow surfers, on board with the company. This September, the trio will offer their first “Boreing Surf Retreat,” a seven-day retreat (scheduled around the full moon when the tide is at its strongest), which includes two-a-day surf sessions, meals, yoga, massage, chalet lodging and more in Girdwood.
Part of what makes surfing the Bore Tide unique (aside from the fact that it may snow while you wait for the wave, as it did during my most recent outing with Beachy) is that the wave comes once every twelve hours, unlike the beaches of Hawaii or Portugal with wave after wave rolling in. The water can be chilly in the spring and fall months and surfers wear wet suits, booties and mitts to stay warm. While a typical wave in Hawaii might take you 50-100 yards, the bore tide can carry you as far as five miles (although you might want to bail after a mile, lest you have to hitchhike back).
For Beachy, the wave plays an important role, not just in his own life, but in the lives of others. He said, “The wave has been my therapist, taught me my insignificance. It doesn’t care about me, it’ll go on twice a day regardless. People from all over the world have come to surf with us, it’s cool to see their reaction after riding the longest wave of their life.”
For more information, check out tasurf.com and follow TA Surf Co on Instagram and Facebook.