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Standup Paddling Alaska’s Turnagain Arm Tidal Bore

Open the current issue of SUP magazine and you’re greeted by one of the most eye-popping standup photos of the year, an areal photograph of Alaska’s Turnagain Arm tidal bore near Girdwood, Alaska (above).

As Eric Newberry, Dave Calkins and Mike McCune glide effortlessly down the face of the wave, surfer, photographer and multi-sport athlete Scott Dickerson snapped this image from his paraglider. “People have been interested in the Turnagain Arm for a while but it’s often too difficult to stay on with a regular surfboard,” says Dickerson. “But with the advent of paddleboarding, you’re guaranteed to ride it for a while.”

Dickerson says that standup paddlers can ride the bore–formed when the outgoing current meets the incoming tide–for up to five miles but get only one shot at this gem. It takes a large tide to work and is still a bit of a mystery. “Sometimes it can be head-high, other times, it’s nothing,” he says.

According to the Tidal Bore Research Society, as Cook Inlet, east of Anchorage, extends inland, it splits into the Turnagain Arm and the Knik Arm. The Turnagain Arm runs east/west and is 10 miles wide, narrowing to almost nothing over the course of 40 miles where it meets Twentymile River. Onlookers can check out the scene from the Seward Highway.

Dickerson says he and his surfing partners like to park their car further up the Turnagain Arm, and float out towards the incoming bore and then surf back to their cars. “It’s hard to imagine that many people get to surf that way,” he says. – Joe Carberry

All photos and video shot by Scott Dickerson. See more of Dickerson’s fantastic work at Surfalaska.net.

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