The pro riders of the Red Bull
team catch storm swells off the coast of Alaska.
In late November, 2008, as a massive low pressure system gathered
strength out in the West Pacific, my phone rang with a message that I was to be on a plane to the small Alaskan island of Yakutat in four hours. The plan was to meet up with Red Bull’s big wave surf team and chase the approaching swell through Alaska’s frigid waters.
1. A sign welcomes visitors to Yakutat, Alaska's surf capital.
2. Raimana Von Bastolaer is a Tahitian big wave legend, a famously fearless surfer even when his home break of Teahupoâo, one of the heaviest and most dangerous waves in the world, is at its biggest. When our plane landed in Alaska, snow was falling, and Raimana stared in amazement. He had never seen snow before.
3. Boards accustomed to riding giant waves in Hawaii and Tahiti await their chance in the snow and ice of Alaska.
4. When the swell hit, the energy in the water was incredible, and many of the outside reefs we had hoped to surf were overwhelmed. This shot is from way inside the bay. For comparison, the boat in the channel has a mast height of about 40 feet.
5. Brazilian surfer Maya Gabeira catches the best wave of the trip and promptly runs for her life.
6. Alaska in late November gets about five to six hours of daylight a day, which made for lots of down time for the athletes and crew. Maya, Jamie, Raimana and Carlos relax in their cabin, which Raimana liked to keep at 80 degrees in order to escape the incessant cold.
7. Jamie Sterling hails from Oahu and is one of the worldâs foremost big wave riders. He's always up for jumping on a plane to some far-off shore, especially if there is a chance of catching a massive left
8. For years, Brazillian surfers have been known as small wave specialists. No one has done more to change that view than Carlos Burle, the winner of the inaugural Big Wave World Tour. Carlos is a constant presence in the water wherever the waves get big.
9. Mentored by Burle, Maya Gabeira has made a name for herself with fearless performances in the testosterone-driven line-ups of Hawaii and Tahiti.
10. Jamie Mitchell lays into a fast turn on the inside section. Jamie was the trip's Energizer bunny, always up to squeeze into the wetsuit and charge, no matter what the Aleutian sea threw at him.
11. Carlos Burle lays back into a rare glassy tube way inside the bay.
12. Carlos lines up another tube on his backhand, making it look effortless.
13. The crew blows off steam after a cold but successful trip.