Story last updated at 12/5/2012 - 2:12 pm
Typically when I think of terms like back door, backside, carving and hang ten, the tune to TV's "Hawaii Five-O" pops in my head. I see images of Mike Love, Brian, Carl and Dennis Wilson on stage (Those are the Beach Boys for those who may be trivia challenged or not of that generation.) All of the sudden, I start mumbling aloud the beat to "Wipeout" while trying to play air guitar and air drums to keep up. When I think about surfing I tend to equate it with the great surfing spots on the planet like the Pipeline in Oahu, Hawaii, Bell's Beach Australia, and Supertubes in Jeffrey's Bay, South Africa. It brings to mind suntan lotion, warm breezes, tan bodies and bikinis.
I was shocked when I found out that there was surfing in Juneau! Not only surfing, but surfing while the temperatures are below the freezing mark. That was something I had to go see for myself.
After a short drive out the road I had arrived. There were no warm breezes, no sun tan lotion wearing groupies in string bikinis, no muscle beach guys wearing Speedo's, no sand between your toes. What I found was inches of snow on the ground, breathtaking views of rugged mountains, ankle breaking rocks and boulders, a stiff north wind that made you wish you had worn more clothing... oh, and a guy named Dylan.
There we were in the parking area at The Shrine of St. Therese, as I learned, more commonly known as "The Shrine." I was in my best beach attire - insulated coveralls, a ski jacket and a fur storm troopers hat; after all it was 20 degrees outside. Dylan was wearing a black suit covering him from head to toe. The only skin exposed was his face. He unzipped a bag that was in the bed of his truck and pulled out a beautiful long board made of wood and we both hiked our way down to the shoreline through the snow. I climbed down the rocks and boulders to take a position on the shore and he waded into the surf, board in hand.
I really could not believe I was standing in the midst of snow and rocks and this guy was paddling out into the surf. There were snow covered mountains in the background and a Bald Eagle flying over us and this guy was catching a wave. There I was, photographing a surfer in Juneau, Alaska, and couldn't help but think how cool it was. I took photos and hung out for about and hour and Dylan was still catching waves as I made the hike through the snow back to my rig.
Watching Dylan surf in the frigid cold water reminded me how fortunate I am. I live in a place that never ceases to amaze me. It is easy to take for granted the place you've lived for a long time. I know what that's like as I was born, raised and lived in the same city for 50 years. Juneau and all of Southeast Alaska have so much to offer, I urge you to never take it for granted. We are fortunate to live in a place where all you have to do is go experience it.
Thank you Dylan and thank you Juneau, I am looking forward to the next experience that I am sure will "WOW" me. And to sign off like a surfer, (this is as close as I will get to being one), Later, Brah.
Dale E. Smith is the general manager of Capital City Weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.