Part IV: Search for the Break
Enough of that. I wanted to see Jack Endicott. I wanted to finally surf this town after many sleepless nights thinking about it. Past the little railway, through the maze of a bizarre suburban subdivision out in the middle of the black spruce bush we went until the familiar bungalow with all manner of giant longboard came into view. How good was his memory?
"Oh you’re that guy from that magazine thing ..what was it again? How did that article turn out?"
Good procrastination takes time I told him. Besides, I kind of needed to surf in order to write the article right? It made sense. Now when getting a board-time came around there were two choices...1) Buy a rare-as-emeralds fibreglass board...or suffer the shame of writing about Yakutat from the vantage point of riding a 10.5 foot plastic .....Bic. I tried...I swear. I hadn’t come with money, and the air-fuel wiped out room on my credit card. He wouldn’t take my watch, nor could I pawn the crew’s computer. The unspeakable things I offered just for a decent board..why he almost threw me out of the shop on my ear. Needless to say...irony most often wins....and we drove off with five proud feet of plastic love hanging out of the back tailgate and the other five glued to the bed of the truck with salmon offal and scales. No sooner did we leave the driveway, we had to turn back to pick another 10 feet.... as our pilot felt this was a most opportune time to learn as well. A half hour later, two t-shirts, a few bars of surf wax, some novelty bubble-gum and we repeated the exit maneuver. Next stop. Pt. Carrew.
Now if there’s one thing scarcer than soap-dodging hippies in Yakutat it’s directions or any semblance of road-map for the myriad of trails that tendril out through the thick spruce wall. They feel like crevasses in the bush. Some get narrower and narrower until they squeeze you out entirely against a deep bog, or heavy patch of powder fine sand. Navigating it is a matter of luck ...and small help from a mind-Polaroid taken from the air on the way into town.
Boreholes out to nearby beaches, grave stones in the green cathedrals and remote weather stations. Evidence of vehicles extracted from the clutches of the sand...so loose that one would sink deep past the ankles, and rending an enthusiastic jog to the shore into a slow jaunt.
Sinking ruts grabbed the wheels and threatened to pull them under into the domain of the Yakutat sand gremlins. Twice I was forced into blind and rapid reversal as the sand spun up through the holes of the foundering Flintstone truck. Finally, in the late afternoon glow, we punched through the spruce wall and found ourselves staring across in the vague direction of Japan. It wasn’t Pt. Carrew...but it was the ocean. Ocean in messy, messy beach break glory. While Alan ran to the water with his board; reminiscent of a kid with a new beach shovel and bucket, I scanned the length of the beach for any semblance of an organized wave. How could this be so hard? But then I noticed something else.... the utter vastness of this beach. It was the longest stretch of wilderness sand that graces the North American coastline. From Palma Bay outside of Icy Strait...all the way to Yakutat Harbour, no town, no cabin, no place interrupts this sandy solitude. The volumes of mobile clastic material that move past a single point on the shore would bury a large town in a matter of weeks. From this vantage point, I had wandered into a primordial landscape, guarded by the twin towers of Mt. St. Elias in the North, and Mt. Fairweather to the South. Blown-out, messy surf, and bobbing on a plastic Bic-yacht; it was the most fantastic of settings.
The afternoon faded into evening without the occurrence of Alan drowning. The wave riding was as much as anyone might imagine on a board that is large enough to fit several lawn-chairs or float a poker-table replete with players. After a bit of practice to make the fast-plunging and opportunistic drops on such a board, it was actually quite fun. The biggest hazard was getting swallowed by the wave monsters as one stared hypnotically at the landward scenery.
We barely noticed the breeze blowing through the cracks in the log cabin as we fell asleep that night. The same could not be said for Mandy who apparently was treated to the sounds of snore in stereo. At least it kept the wild Yakutat Chihuahua’s away. Two more had accosted us in the pub at dinner; it was apparent that my story had been relayed around some to both man, woman and beast. The airport manager/bar keep even mentioned it. "Oh you’re the fellow that doesn’t like small dogs". Sometimes it’s hard to guess what will get you tarred and feathered in a small town.
Malaspina Glacier. Over 90 kilometres across and 2400 square kilometres in area, it creates its own weather. In a low-flying plane on return from Icy Bay, the wedge of cloud that spews from its surface keeps one close to the deck and time seems to slow. It is a twilight zone where you are orbiting the surface of a Martian planet. Red soil, giant angular blocks and sinkholes drift by the view port. Landmarks are non-existent. Surface travel would be a dangerous snail’s pace owing to the constantly collapsing rubble. It would suck that much more wearing a space suit. I’d like to see those Mars-on-Earth Society people navigate this for a month.
We poured out of the amphibious plane and stowed our gear quickly, eager to for more earthly explorations of the beaches. This time from the air, we had made special note of the trails out to Pt. Carrew, weaving through the salt-marsh lagoons and out towards the boulder reefs that seemed to command order from the waves that landed so chaotic on the beaches further to the south. Fingers of boulder patches spread out from shore; creating pointbreaks around a point break. Think of spokes on a wheel...spread out to form individual breaks. This was heaven. This was our destination.
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river surfing in Munich, spring 2006 - Photos:Kristof Kraemer
Louis Robert, winter 2005, Florida, San Diego, France
Going Nowhere - Malcolm Johnson
Peter Devries in Indo August 2004