Glacier Surfing: An Awesome Sidenote in Surfing’s History

glacier-surfingOne of the fun things about being a surf fan is watching how the sport progresses. Just when you think everything’s been done—guys are doing turns! On waves!—someone comes up with something totally new, like taking their surfing to the air.

In the past few years, we’ve seen a ton of progression in surfing, some of it within surfing proper—rodeo flips are now common, and guys are now paddling into waves of unprecedented size—and some of it in a sort of tangential way, like stand-up paddleboarding, wakesurfing, tidal-bore surfing, wave pools, and so on.

These sort of progressions usually end up going one of three ways. Some of those progressions stick and become a permanent part of the sport—wave pools seem to be headed in that direction. Others splinter off and become their own more or less unrelated activities, like wakesurfing. Others are simply novelties that no one ever touches on again.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that glacier surfing is going to go route three, a novelty that never really becomes anything. But it’s an amazing novelty. Here’s how it works:

In places where glaciers feed into lakes or oceans, from time to time a huge chunk of ice will break off from the glacier and drop into the water—it’s called calving, and it’s pretty cool to watch in itself. Whenever you drop a large chunk of anything into the water, it creates a sizeable wave. And if there’s something for that wave to break on, that wave can be surfable. Of course, you’ll probably have to tow into it, because you’d have a tough time finding the exact right spot to sit and paddle. But once you tow into the wave, there you are—you’re surfing a wave

These guys are the pioneers—and some of the only practitioners—of glacier surfing. Check it out:

Glacier Surfing

The difficulty of getting all the pieces in place probably means that glacier surfing probably won’t catch on as a widespread sport. It’s a lot of effort for just one wave, and glaciers typically don’t calve all that often. But the difficulty of the whole thing makes it all the more awesome: these guys spent a bunch of time and a bunch of money—and surely did a ton of research—all just to see if they could do something new with the sport of surfing. So even though glacier surfing will probably just end up as a sidenote in the history of the sport, we can still be glad that these guys went to all that effort to plant a surfing flag on one mushy but awesome wave.