Just west of Alaska lies a chain of islands called The Aleutians. It’s a rough place, weather-wise–violent storms batter the archipelago nearly year ’round. Made up of 14 large islands and 55 smaller ones, The Aleutians have become a sort of final frontier for the most intrepid of surfers.
While the waves there do get good, the interesting part–like any good surf trip–doesn’t lie in the surfing. It’s the history of the place, the backdrop the traveler finds himself in, and the community that calls the place home. Somewhere around 13,000 years ago, the last ice age ended. With it, vast amounts of ice melted, causing global sea levels to rise. As they did, the Bering Land Bridge, a low-lying region extending from Siberia to Alaska, began to disappear.
“While this spelled the end of the woolly mammoths and other large grazing animals, it probably also provided the impetus for human migration,” wrote Scott Armstrong Elias in Scientific American. “As retreating glaciers opened new routes into the continent, humans traveled first into the Alaskan interior and the Yukon, and ultimately south out of the Arctic region and toward the temperate regions of the Americas.”
That migration, apparently, made the island that Alex Gray and Anthony Walsh traveled to the home of the longest-settled community in the entire world.
“Gray and Walsh had traveled to the island with hopes of learning some indigenous practices firsthand—hunting, in particular—and teaching the locals how to surf in exchange,” reads the description below the video.
As mentioned, with every great surf story, the gold isn’t in the waves. Instead, it’s in the moments that happen on the search for them. “So much of my life is just surf, surf, surf,” says Gray. “…surfing is the bonus here.”