Surfing in cold water... Alaska with Damien Castera

08 February 2016 | North America

Trade in your swimming costume for a good wetsuit and head for the cold waters of Alaska, New York State, Scotland... What's the big idea? Well, you will be able to admire extraordinary landscapes and participate in an unforgettable experience. Today, Anglet freesurfer Damien Castera takes us to Alaska where he enjoyed the waves with snowboarder Mathieu Crepel for their documentary Odisea.

360° Surf : You have just released a wonderful movie about your trip in Alaska with the snowboarder Mathieu Crepel, can you tell us about your trip ?

Damien Castera : We linked the snowy peaks of Glacier Bay, Alaska, to the Pacific Ocean. An adventure on the water trail, from flake to wave. It took us 5 weeks.

Why did you choose Alaska?

Alaska is a wilderness destination that is largely untouched by man. It also has some of the world's most beautiful mountains and untouched waves - just what we needed for adventure.

How did you feel about your trip? How did you organize it?

We worked on the project for almost two years. It was mainly the preparation of the film and the financing that took time. In terms of logistics, it was quite complicated because we had to transport the material from the mountains, the river and the ocean, with the different boards... We also had to be prepared for the unexpected, bears, storms... In Alaska they are commonplace.

Isn't 5 weeks too long? Were there any difficult moments to go through?

Everything went well, we had great weather in the mountains and on the river, good conditions to make great images. The atmosphere in the group was great. Then on the coast, things got worse with two weeks of bad weather. The wait was long but it allowed us to meet the Amerindian members of the Tlingit community, with whom we shared wonderful moments of life.

Why did you choose to share the experience with Mathieu Crepel?

Because Mathieu has the ability to be a surfer and a snowboarder. He is an enthusiastic and curious person, always motivated. It was a real pleasure to work with him for two years and to carry out this adventure.

What is your best memory / scare?

The 6 nights of base camp on the glacier with the bonus of the aurora borealis. This is something I had never done before and I particularly enjoyed it. The calm, the immensity, the primitive beauty of nature. What a chance to experience such moments. Small scare with the orcas...

Let's talk about surfing now...

What were the spots you surfed? What was your favourite spot?

We surfed beach breaks (sandy spots) but also rocky spots. Unfortunately, the favourite spot I discovered 2 years ago didn't work. It's a rare wave that works when the swell is at least 3 meters. The waves then enter the bay and wrap around a tongue of sand, giving a fantastic wave that rolls over several hundred meters.

What were the surf conditions like during your surftrip?

Unlike my first trip, we had very difficult surfing conditions, with a lot of current and complicated waves to surf. A lot of wind and rain. Fortunately at the end of the trip we had some good sessions.

Can you tell us a bit about the line-up?

When you surf in Alaska you have to deal with the environment: lots of seals, otters, sea lions, orcas and sharks that you'd rather not see. It's quite scary. The sea lions are very often hostile to our arrival and chase us out of the water. As for the orcas, it is not uncommon to see them in the distance, when they get closer, we get out of the water.

What equipment do you have for a cold water expedition?

I use O'neill 5/4 mm suits, gloves, booties, bonnet.

How do you get out of the water during a cold water session?

The problem with an expedition like this is that it takes time to warm up. You have to go back to the camp, light the fire, and when it rains it can take a long time. Once the fire is lit, it's a real moment of happiness. I think I like being cold for the sake of being warm ;)

What is the difference between a cold and warm water surftrip?

Definitely the world in the water. People are very apprehensive about the cold, about surfing in wetsuits. Otherwise, it's different logistics. Specific equipment, you need a place to warm up and wait for the waves.

Apart from surfing (and snowboarding) what did you do in Alaska ? Do you have any good tips to share with us?

Fishing is the other major activity. The rivers of Alaska are full of fish: Arctic grayling, dolly varden, salmon. It is a freshwater fisherman's paradise. You have to take certain measures to avoid attracting bears, such as filleting fish at the water's edge and bringing back to camp only what you eat.

Would you like to go surfing again in Alaska?

This is my second trip and certainly not the last. Alaska has a huge potential, thousands of kilometres of coastline. It's a country where I feel really good.

What will be your next trip? Why do you want to do it?

I hope to go back to Chile with Mathieu Crepel next autumn for the second episode of Odisea. Still on the same principle of following the path of water and meeting people who live around this fundamental element.

In one word, how would you sum up your experience ? What advice would you give to a future globetrotter?

You have to be curious and motivated. The hardest thing is to get started, once on the road, the adventure guides you.

Any last words?

For those who are interested, the Flocon à la Vague association mobilises throughout the year by organising events and conferences to raise awareness of water issues. Find all the information on :

YouTube video

Odisea is a 52-minute documentary about the adventures of free surfer Damien Castera and professional snowboarder Mathieu Crépel on an expedition from the mountains to the ocean. Together, they embark on the Odisea adventure, a five-week expedition that includes snowboarding down glaciers, packrafting on the first snowfalls, canoeing in boreal rivers and surfing in the realm of the moguls. A poetic celebration of water's journey from the eternal snows to the waves of the Pacific.



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