Extreme Sport Alaska Style
We took a drive on Sunday after my trip to Denver. I wanted to make the most of the gorgeous September day we were having with some pictures along Turnagain Arm. For my money, Turnagain Arm is one of the most beautiful and scenic drives there is. The Chugach mountains rise up thousands of feet on one side and on the other is the coffee with cream colored water of the Arm.
The tides in the Arm see the largest tidal range in the United States with a mean of 30 feet and the fourth strongest in the world. Low tides can range around about negative four feet or more and then rise over 30 feet. That change happens in about six hours. That’s a lot of water. Also, since this is Alaska, the water is cold.
Wildlife can be seen in abundance as you drive along the arm. Beluga Whales can be seen in the water, particularly in the fall as they chase the salmon up the arm toward the spawning streams. You might see sheep up on the high peaks. Moose are not uncommon.
On this drive, I was after some beautiful early fall shots. We drove to Portage lake, where I saw a small ice berg in the water. After some hiking and other pictures, we headed home.
On the way, we saw the most exciting activity of the day.
South of Girdwood, on a sandy beach, there were about a dozen kite surfers. We pulled off, crossed the road, climbed down the rocky embankment, and I started shooting.
It was wild. Men in black wet suits were preparing their gear.
The wind was howling, which made the preparations challenging. As the guys would get their gear ready, they would have to carefully walk their kites out to the water carrying their surf boards. The pull of the kites was tremendous.
Like so many creatures that live in water or fly in the air, kite surfers are incredibly ungainly until they hit the water. Once in the water, their movements are as beautiful as ballet and exciting as a motor cross race.
The wind pulls the surfers around at great speeds. The surfers don’t seem to be trying to catch waves, they seem to be trying to catch the wind just right to be taken airborne. We watched a the surfers flew 20 or 30 feet straight up.
We watched for a while as more and more guys hit the water and zipped down toward the southern part of the arm. They were going great distances very quickly. They played, danced, and flew into the air making it look so easy.
I think the picture of the whole experience that best showed the fun and excitement of kite surfing on Turnagain Arm was seen in my final shot as we headed back to the car.
There was a larger lesson for me in this experience.
Like the kite surfers, sometimes you have to let the winds carry you where they go. I never imagined I would get these fun and great shots when we set off on our drive. We ended up seeing this incredible sport without a plan. It just happened.
Some days, you never know what will happen, but if you put yourself out there, you can have fun and amazing experiences.
What amazing experiences have you had that were unplanned?
Click below to see a full gallery of the kite surfing shots.