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Glacier Surfing: Shredding the Poles

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Glacier surfing

Riding Glaciers

If surfing the mighty waves of the Pacific or the Atlantic isn't really getting you stoked anymore, glacier surfing might be for you.  Glacier surfing takes wave riding to the extreme, and it's where few surfers have dared to shred.  
Brave surfers ride these fast, powerful waves that are a result of glacier calving.  This is when large chunks of ice break off of glaciers, creating icebergs.  The force of a mass of ice hitting the seawater can generate a wave as high as 30 feet.  Surfers can get towed in and ride these glacier waves up to 1,000 feet and for as long as 1 minute.

First Glacier Shred

Garrett McNamara glacier surfingFilmmaker Ryan Casey first figured out riders could cruise on a glacier wave when he was out in Alaska shooting for IMAX in 1995.  Casey immediately showed his finding to one of surfing's biggest daredevils, Garrett McNamara.  The Hawaiian big wave surfer recounted his first time tackling glacier surfing in an interview with Surfline.

"First wave, first day.  It scared the shit out of me.  It made me want to go home, but I actually rode it as well," McNamara said.  He was the first person to ever ride one of these glacier waves.  This meant that finding the perfect glacier to ride would be difficult.  Many of the pieces of ice "bookshelf" when they fall into the water, meaning they fall flat, exploding a powerful spray of icy seawater and crushing anyone underneath.  "The first day one bookshelved at us," he said.  "The first wave we went for did that and I was terrified. All I could think about was not being there for my son."  It is all too easy to see why glacier surfing is not for the faint of heart.

glacier surfingEventually, McNamara's patience and perseverance paid off.  "It was a glassy, two- to three-foot wave and it didn't break -- but it was a perfect swell and I got three, four turns in and it felt awesome," McNamara said.  "It was the heaviest rush I have ever had and the wave didn't even break."

Sounds like it's time to take the handboarding stoke to the Alaskan glaciers.  Imagine barreling down an icy glacier wave, Slyde handboard outstretched, on that unbreakable wave.  The excitement (and terror) would be worth the ride!

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