Alaska may not be at the top of everyone’s list for a surf vacation, with most people opting for the warm weathers of California or Hawaii. Alaska has 34,000 miles of coastline and countless areas with strong breaks and great swells.
Whilst the cooler temperatures even in the summer months may put some people off, the longer hours of sunlight in the day may entice others.
If you’re ready to embrace the unpredictable weather of Alaska to get some good surfing in then check out our list of best surf camps in Alaska and how to prepare for your trip.
Unfortunately, as Alaska is such a remote state, there are only a handful of surf camps and accommodations that you can stay at The Last Frontier.
4. Icy Waves
Meal Price Range
Like anywhere in the world, there’ll be expensive and more affordable places to eat in Alaska.
Alaska has great local fish which helps reduce the price of certain types of fish that you buy in the grocery store or restaurants. When possible try to eat whatever is most in season so you can reduce the costs of your meals as much as possible.
You’ll find a good selection of the favorite chain restaurants like Wendy’s, Olive Garden, and the trusty McDonald’s, so if your budget is pretty low you can still count on these being dotted around the state to get a cheap and easy meal.
The average cost of food for one person eating out a day is around $45 although this will be significantly lower when eating at fast-food restaurants or street food establishments.
Even though most places around Alaska will accept debit or credit cards as payment, it’s important to keep plenty of cash on you throughout your trip for any public transport you may take, leaving tips at restaurants or eating out at tiny diners in the middle of nowhere.
Some of the surfing spots and surf camps in Alaska are more remote, so it’s often recommended for travelers to do a big grocery shop and cook in their accommodation when possible to save time commuting out to busier areas where there are restaurants.
However, as food has to travel further to get to grocery stores and restaurants, food prices will be noticeably higher than the national average.
Surfboard rental shops are harder to come across in Alaska compared to other surfing destinations, so expect to pay above-average prices when going there to surf.
A wetsuit and booties are also recommended, if not essential for a large portion of the year so you’ll also need to rent those out for the duration of your stay.
A combo package that covers the board, booties, wetsuit, and gloves can cost you around $250 for a week of surfing.
If you’re lucky your surf camp will provide all the gear you need all included in one cost for the trip so you won’t have to worry about traveling around to rent out surfboards from additional companies.
Surfing is not the go-to activity in Alaska so there is a lack of demand for surf rental shops around. Therefore, you may be required to bring your own surf gear on your vacation to Alaska.
If you’re traveling across states or going by ferry then this will be easier to bring your surf gear with you.
Those traveling by plane either in the US or internationally could be looking at paying up to $200 to bring their surfboard along with them and that’s not taking into consideration the cost of having to rent a surfboard to bring with you.
Prepaid SIM Cards
If you’re a US resident then you won’t need to buy an additional prepaid SIM to be able to use your cellphone whilst staying in Alaska.
However, some of the biggest cell phone providers like T-Mobile don’t have their own networks in Alaska and they have a roaming agreement with GCI (Alaska’s best cell phone provider).
The major cell phone providers have good coverage across the state of Alaska so you should be able to get service most places that you go.
However, in more remote destinations service may drop or disappear so it’s recommended to make sure your accommodation has a good WiFi connection so you can stay connected to the rest of the world.
For international tourists, we’d recommend GCI or AT&T prepaid sim cards.
Most service providers do prepaid SIM cards for a month and not weeks, so you’ll need to consider whether you’re happy paying $30 for a month of data, texts, and minutes if you may only be staying for a week in Alaska.
You’ll be able to get a prepaid sim card from cell phone provider stores across the state, or you can also go to Walmart, Target, Best Buy, or Fred Meyers as they all do prepaid SIM cards.
The main airport in Alaska is Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport and is the likeliest airport that you will fly into whether you’re traveling internationally or not.
Fairbanks International Airport is the inner city airport and is located just outside the central business district. The coastal surf areas of the Southeast of Alaska are normally accessed by flying into Juneau International Airport.
Whenever possible, try to fly into the airport that reduces your travel costs to the coastal area you’ll be surfing in. The US is huge and you’ll be glad to have spent the extra money on flights to reduce the time it could take you to travel out to the coast via public transport or by hire car.
You’ll be able to hire a car from many places across the state but picking one up from the airport is the most convenient.
A hire vehicle will cost you anything from $200 a week from any of the leading car rental companies, but then you also need to budget the cost of filling up on gas whilst on your travels. The price of gas per gallon in Alaska is around $3.406.
Coastal areas in Alaska are sometimes best reached via a ferry which is supplied by the Alaska Marine Highway System.
Unfortunately, there are no set fares that we can provide you with as fares increase when the ferry’s capacity is more full so make sure to book in advance to avoid more expensive tickets.
Lyft and Uber are available in the major cities but will not be available in the coastal areas of Alaska. Taxis are also available in popular towns and major cities, with tariffs starting from $2 per km.
To get to the coast, you can also take the Alaska Railroad Coastal Classic Train departing from Anchorage, and prices starting from $99.
Buses also run down to the coastal areas of Alaska, with prices ranging from $70 upwards depending on where you depart from.
Types of Risks
Despite being so remote, Alaska does not have low crime rates, especially within the larger cities. Keep all belongings close to you when walking around or commuting on public transport.
Tourists are normally safe within daylight hours but once dark comes, avoid walking around on your own and woman should stay especially vigilant as there are high cases of rape in Alaska.
The cold weather in Alaska poses huge risks, so make sure to bring appropriate clothing on your trip and avoid spending too much time in the water during the colder months.
Get clued up on what to do if you spot a bear or wild moose as that’s an encounter that you don’t want to have.
Don’t go into the snowy mountains unless you’ve got a guide with you as you’ll need to have the correct equipment and training to get yourself out of an avalanche.
How to prepare
US citizens do not require a visa to enter Alaska for a surf trip. Those crossing the border from Canada into Alaska will need a valid passport to cross the border and you’ll need to cross the border at one of the 5 identified land border crossings.
International travelers visiting the U.S can get a visa waiver if they are a citizen of one of the 39 countries on the Visa Waiver Program.
Those planning on traveling using the VWP will need to get their travel authorized by filling out an ESTA online application before embarking on their travels.
International travelers using the VWP can stay in the US for up to 90 days without a visa. Passports must be valid for at least 6 months longer than your intended stay in the US.
The recommended vaccines for traveling to the United States are Rabies and Tetanus but is not an essential requirement to be let into the country.
Language and Currency
The majority of the Alaskan population speak English, with the next largest spoken language being Spanish. However, anyone if not everyone you come across on your travels in Alaska will greet and speak to you in English.
There is also a small percentage of the Alaskan population that speak one of 20 recognized Alaska native languages that originates back to the native tribes that migrated over a thousand years ago.
However, unless you’re traveling to the remote areas of Alaska then you probably won’t come across these languages.
The official currency of Alaska is the US dollar, however, you might find the occasional Canadian coin handed back to you in change sometimes.
If you’re traveling internationally then it’s best to have sorted your travel money for your trip in the US before arriving there as it’ll make it easier for you to get the best exchange rate.
Checking Surf Forecast
The best time to surf in Alaska is in spring and fall, however, dedicated surfers do take it upon themselves to brave the arctic temperatures of the ocean in the winter.
Water temperatures only creep above 60 degrees Fahrenheit in the height of summer so you’ll probably spend the majority of your time in your wetsuit.
Conditions can quickly change in Alaska, so be prepared to experience all weather and surf forecasts during your short stay in the area.
Surf conditions can be quite unpredictable so if you’re looking for a vacation where you’ll be guaranteed huge waves every day then Alaska may not be the place to go.
If you’ve got the option to be more flexible when traveling to Alaska to surf then you’ll avoid disappointment.
Surf camps will be experts on what surf spots are best throughout the day and the seasons so they’ll be able to advise you or even take you to the spots with the best swells on your trip.
Travel insurance is essential when traveling anywhere, but when it comes to a surf vacation in Alaska then it’s even more of a necessity. You’ll need to ensure your travel insurance covers activities like surfing and any other activities you plan on doing on your trip.
Surf conditions are a little more testing in Alaska than with the arctic waters, so it’s important to have precautionary measures in place if something were to go wrong.
The healthcare system in the US is extremely expensive and if you were to get into an accident and don’t have any insurance to cover any treatment you may need then you could see yourself having a huge medical bill at the end.
So not only should you have the regular things covered like personal belongings, flight/accommodation cancellation but also medical care coverage and also personal liability which will cover you in case you hurt someone else on your trip.
If you have any pre-existing medical conditions then you’ll let your insurance company know even if you think those conditions may affect you on your trip.
If you have an accident and you didn’t tell your insurance company then your policy could be voided and you could be left forking out thousands of dollars in medical bills.