Not all surf trips are sand, sunshine and small islands. Die-hard surfers will shred anywhere there's flowing water and a decent wave -- even if that means braving below-freezing temperatures or fighting the upstream current of a river.
In fact, some of the world's best surf spots force adventurers past icebergs or through war-stricken deserts just for the thrill of a perfect peeling wave. And we don't blame them. After all, not all surfers are on a strict sun and beach diet.
Case and point? Check out the below 5 off-the-grid destinations:
1. Yakutat, Alaska
Alaska has 33,000 miles of cold coastline and this small town with a population of roughly 700 people is known as Surf City, Alaska, or -- to locals and big wave surfers-- "The Far North Shore." When the swell is just right, the surf reaches more than 20 feet, but you have to trek across the snow and the unforgivably rocky shoreline before ever reaching the water.
Once you get there -- if you can handle the temperatures -- it is so worth it. Chilling breezes and even colder water keeps the lineups empty. When in you're in town, don't forget to visit Alaska's first (and the town's only) surf shop, Icy Waves.
2. Gaza Strip
Surprised? Yeah, we were too. But apparently, in the past decade, this politically tumultuous slice of the middle east has developed a small surf community, bringing a temporary escape for many who live there via the waves of the Mediterranean Sea. Al Deira beach is a popular spot for local surfers and, according to WannaSurf.com, is best when the swell is breaking over the reef at three feet.
Getting to the Gaza Strip is a journey of its own. Security around the border is extremely tight with no shortage of barbed wire fences, walls and roadblocks to monitor your every move. If you add this destination to your surfing bucket list, take note: visiting the Gaza Strip is difficult and can be very dangerous and most countries advise against it.
3. Qiantang River, China a.k.a. The Silver Dragon
Imagine a river the color of milk chocolate swirling a quick-moving wave miles through a city. It may sound like a surfer's Willy Wonka-themed dream, but it's the freak wave at Qiantang River. The wave is actually a tidal bore, which forms when the incoming tide from Hangzhou Bay is funneled into the river, creating the long breaking wave locals call "The Silver Dragon."
According to National Geographic, the wave can reach almost 30 feet and travel at a speed of 25 miles per hour. For most onlookers, the wave, which occurs with every full moon but is strongest in the fall, looks like a freak of nature. For surfers, however, it is a dream come true. The river hosts the Red Bull Qiangtang Shoot Out, where teams of surfers are towed into the fast moving dragon, making it one of the craziest and most unique surfing contests on the planet.
4. Tanker Surfing, Texas
Texas may be famous for BBQ, football, and oil, but it's not exactly known for its surf environment. Thankfully, determined surfers in the Lone Star State discovered tanker surfing: riding the wave left behind by massive moving tanker ships.
While tanker waves are decent at best, they can go on for miles, giving wave-starved surfers exactly what they've been itching for. According to ESPN and echoed throughout surf blogs, the best tanker surf spots are kept hush-hush, but the most known wave is at Galveston Bay. For a price, Texas surf tour companies like Tanker Surf Charters will find those perfect man-made waves for you.
When the water can literally freeze you to death, we have to wonder: is catching a wave really worth it? If you're big wave surfer Ramón Navarro, the answer is always yes.
Antarctica was only recently recognized as a surf spot when Navarro and Patagonia surf ambassador Dan Malloy ventured to the South Shetland Islands in the Arctic for a Red Bull-funded surf trip. While their two-week trip produced less-than-ideal conditions, Navarro and Malloy unearthed a new challenge for extreme surfers. Are you brave enough to take your surfing to polar levels?
Where's the craziest/scariest/most extreme place you've ever surfed? Let us know in the comments section below!
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