Driving down the Seward Highway, world traveler Brandon Clement suggests it is nearly impossible to describe the beauty. It’s summer in Alaska and one of the hottest on record this year. Thunderstorms have been noted inside the arctic circle, much further north than is typical. It is a scorcher this year, but one thing is still on schedule. Locked into a predictable pattern by the moon itself, the tidal swings portions of Alaska are about to experience are some of the most extreme on Earth.

During high tide the Turnagain Arm , an inlet just south of Anchorage becomes completely full of water with snowcapped peaks in the background surrounded by beautiful (usually) snow capped mountains on either side. Large pods of Beluga Whales can even be seen congregating just offshore. In a matter of minutes the scene changes. Like clockwork as much as 35 feet of water is about to rush out of the normally full inlet, leaving nothing behind but mud flats. It will remain this way until the tide turns again.

As the tide begins to rise once more, the scenic turnout near Bird Point begins to fill with cars. Tourists, locals, surfers and photographers begin to arrive: They are here for a show. The countdown from low tide in Anchorage is 2.5 hours for an event that lasts mere moments at Bird Point. As the water begins to come into the Arm, a tidal wave that can stand several feet leads the way. A wave of water that can at times stand up and curl just like on a beach front but generated by nothing more than the influx of an almost hard to fathom amount of water with the incoming tide. This tidal wave, or bore tide, is a rare and brief opportunity and many come to experience it.

About 30 minutes before the bore tide arrives, the surfers start making their way down the rocks to the water. The tide is still moving out until the bore sends it rushing upstream, and water is still swiftly moving towards sea in a small channel left in the otherwise sticky mud flats. The surfers know they will get one shot to catch the wave and so will allow the outgoing tide to push them out toward sea about a mile. When the bore tide approaches they then surf the wave back to where they are parked.

About 10 minutes before the wave arrives at Bird Point off in the distance, a large line appears in the water. As it gets closer, it becomes apparent that it is a wave and it grows in height with each passing moment. In what seems like a 10 minute period that will last forever, the wave finally reaches the surfers and they go for it. The mad dash and the chaotic paddling is in stark contrast to the wait of the previous half hour. Some make it, some don’t. Some surfers are experts, other are tourists trying to ride the wave for the first time. Longboards, shortboards, sup boards, kayaks, wind surfers, hydrofoils and just about anything else you can imagine are out there, all trying to catch this wave. As it approaches Bird Point, you begin to hear the rumble of the waves. The towering wall of water at times stands up over the heads of the surfers and is sometimes more than a mile or two across. As the wave comes by the mudflats quickly transform into water in one of the most unique displays of nature Clement says he has ever seen. The people lining both the wave and the shore cheer as it the wave goes by.

And then it’s over. Months of preparation, hours of agonizing wait, minutes of chaos, and in a moment the wave passes and the event is over. But it’s alright. As predictably as the tides themselves, the world travelers like Clement and the surfers too will be back to catch the next wave. After all, it’s not every day you get to surf Alaska.

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