Alaskan Brewing Co.

Icy Bay IPA

Juneau, AK

(pdf version)

    There’s a thin line between bravery and insanity and Alaskan Brewing Co.’s Icy Bay IPA recognizes those who walk that line, or, in this case, surf it.  Alaskan surfing is a real sport and a surprisingly popular one.  Yes, it is very cold, but that doesn’t stop these athletes from diving into the frost covered ocean in search of the next great wave.  Surfers often have to tread through snow and ice to get out to sea and can usually only stay out for a short time before finding a place to warm up, but it’s worth it.  The waves in Alaska are spectacular and the scenery is unmatched.  Alaska’s weather can be extreme at times, leading to huge swells of 20 feet or more along its coastline and while an ideal wave in Hawai’i might allow a surfer to ride for 30 seconds, Alaskan surfers have reported riding as long as 45 minutes on a single wave.  (Many of Hawaii’s best waves are actually born in the Gulf of Alaska.)
    As with most things in the Last Frontier, surfing in Alaska isn’t as simple as in other areas.  It is rare for someone to just load up their car with gear, head down to the beach and go surfing.  The quest for good waves in Alaska can easily turn into something more like an expedition and due to Alaska’s limited road system, surfers often have to use boats, planes or helicopters to reach the remote areas where the waves happen to be that day.  With water temperatures in the 30s and air temperatures well below freezing, surfers are willing to risk the inconvenience for a few rides surrounded by the peaceful Alaskan wilderness.  Overcrowded beaches most certainly are not a problem.
    Alaskan surfing is generally divided up into three different categories.  The first is traditional surfing which requires a surfer to start on the shore, paddle out on their surfboard, catch a wave and then ride it back towards shore, but another method, known as “riding the bore tide”, requires a more advanced skill set.  Just south of Anchorage, in the Turnagain Arm of the Cook Inlet, is an area that experiences some of the largest tidal fluctuations in the world.  Just after the peak of low tide, a large wave called a tidal bore (technically a “tidal wave”) will come rolling through the narrow waterway and sometimes create waves that are very tall and move very quickly; as much as 10 feet in height and moving at anywhere from 10 to 15 mph.  It is a strange and dangerous phenomenon but it can make for a long and thrilling ride.  (This is where the 45-minute ride occurred.  Three surfers rode the bore tide for over 5 miles.)  The third method, glacier wave surfing, is probably the most unusual method of surfing in the world and can only be accomplished in a few places on the planet.  Basically, surfers will find a glacier that is in the process of melting and has massive chunks of ice falling into the water below (known as “calving”).  They then position themselves nearby so that they can ride the wave made by the falling ice.  This method is extremely dangerous and should only be attempted by skilled professionals, but it is also known to produce huge waves and an unforgettable day of surfing.
    Obviously, such an activity can have serious drawbacks.  Aside from the continual threat of frostbite or hypothermia, surfers are often far from hospitals and medical centers, sometimes as much as 36 hours away.  A surfing trip can quickly get expensive and the entire journey usually requires quite a serious commitment.  The biggest challenge is often just getting to the waves.
    Many of the most popular surfing hotspots in Alaska are found along the southern coast in the Kodiak, Kenai Fjords, Yakutat, Bear Glacier and Aleutian Islands regions of the Gulf of Alaska.  Alaskan surfers are known to catch waves at any time of year including during winter when they often take advantage of December’s larger tides or swells whipped up by February gusts.  In fact, the picture on Alaskan Brewing Co.’s Icy Bay IPA label is of surfer Frederick Dickerson enjoying the waves near Yakutat in the dead of winter.  Spring, summer and fall provide warmer temperatures and autumn is when the water maxes out at its highest, usually around 55 degrees.  
    Photographs of Alaskan surfing are like no other.  Snow capped peaks sit far off in the distance, snow covered beaches with crusty ice along the shoreline, wildlife surrounding a beautiful, untouched body of water and in the middle of it all, a surfer coasts along a perfect wave.  Often considered the final frontier of surfing, it is still possible to be the first person to ever surf some of Alaska’s more than 30,000 miles of coastline.  

From the Brewer: Icy Bay IPA is a West Coast style IPA featuring hop bitterness with citrus and grapefruit notes alongside a smooth malt backbone, with a dry finish. Made from glacier-fed water and a blend of Summit, Apollo and Cascade hops and premium two-row pale and specialty malts, Icy Bay IPA has a bold taste, brisk bitter bite, and a citrus hop aroma. ABV 6.2%, IBU 65

Geoff and Marcy Larson - Founders

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Photograph courtesy of Scott Dickerson Photography

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