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Groovers,

Some folks requested an e-mail confirming that I survived my solo surfing trip to Hinchinbrook Island (the one in Alaska not the one in Queensland) - I did - If you are interested here are the details:

[Warning: this e-mail may be boring if you do not surf]

I flew into Cordova, Alaska just as a week of fine weather turned into torrential rain. I spent two days in town getting gear ready for my trip and I went mountain biking in the rain and mud. A cab driver mentioned that a guy in town, Brent Davis, surfed the nearby islands and I dropped in on him to see if he could give me some helpful tips on the breaks. Brent turned out to be very cool. He said the waves were more suited to longboarding than bodyboarding and he lent me one of his boards (we'd known each other about 30 minutes!).

On Sunday the 17th I flew in to Hinchinbrook. The pilot had to take out the back seats so we could fit Brent's board in and then it was a twenty-minute trip to Hook Point. The landing strip is the wet beach sand at low tide. The beach is enormous; it's about 2 miles long and 500 meters wide. The cabin is right in front of the beach but it still takes more than 5 minutes to walk to the water, even longer at low tide (Alaskan tides are huge, they range up to 14 feet).

When the plane took of I was committed to stay for eight days - I moved into my USFS cabin (thank you federal government) and then headed straight back to the beach for my first Alaskan surf - the waves were head high and glassy. During my first surf I was looking over my shoulder to see if any bears were walking down a beach. I had heard the beach described as a 'bear highway' (there is a salmon stream at each end of the beach). As the days wore on I got less and less nervous about the bears - I only saw tracks once the whole time I was on the island. I did see plenty of wildlife, however. Sammie the sea lion was a regular visitor in the surf. He would pop his head up about 25 feet from where I was surfing and just check me out. He'd hang around for ages. I wondered if he thought I might be a sea lion (I was wearing a black hooded wetsuit). I also saw two porpoises and when I surfed close to the mouth of the salmon streams the running salmon would jump around right by my board.

The surf was good on Monday but on Tuesday a storm came in and a messy wind swell started building. By Wednesday morning I was unable to paddle out through the whitewater. My total isolation was broken on
Wednesday - as I was walking back to the cabin from the surf a plane came in and dropped off three guys - they turned out to be surfers also. Mike, Bill 'Buckwheat' and Shaun were visiting their 'local' break (after a five-hour drive, a six-hour boat ride and a 20-minute plane ride).

I had mixed feelings about my solitude being broken but Mike, Buckwheat and Shaun turned out to be great company (if I had a spare four hours I'd retell some of their insane kayaking stories). The new guys had
tents but I let them move into my cabin. The surf starved Alaskan boys headed straight out into the mess but only Shaun was able to paddle out the back (at which point he started to be swept out into the Gulf of Alaska so he headed straight back in). Buckwheat claimed that he counted 14 lines of whitewater between the shore and open sea.

Thursday was much better. In the morning it was cleaner and a little over head high - Shaun and I were able to get through (although Mike and Buckwheat spent the entire morning duck diving and paddling to no avail). In the afternoon it was perfect with glassy green shoulder to head high waves. In total I spent about 6 hours in my wetsuit on Thursday. On Thursday afternoon the weather cleared to the point where we could see huge glacier-capped mountains in the distance back on the mainland. It was definitely a thrill to check out glaciers and surf at the same time.

Friday and Saturday had smaller waves and we all went longboarding (with Sammie the sea lion joining us for a spot of bodysurfing). Although I hadn't tried a stand-up board for ages I was surfing pretty well, it's so much easier to get up on a longboard. On Saturday a bank of fog came in as we were surfing. It went from
being sunny and clear to being so foggy we couldn't see the mountains behind us and then we couldn't even see back to the beach. Mike declared, "We've died and gone to heaven boys!"

By Sunday the waves had gotten really small so I just went for a swim (no wetsuit) - I was really sad to leave. I can't imagine going back to New Haven and school after this trip. A trip to the wilderness is an opportunity to reflect about one's life priorities. This trip made my priorities very clear to me - I MUST DO MORE SURFING!

Catch ya...

Dan
daniel.nazer@yale.edu