Summer is here and with it, the siren call of the ocean waves. That’s certainly the case in Yakutat, home of the Icy Waves Surf Shop. KCAW visited this tucked-away destination for big wave surfers around the world.
Like all great surf spots, this surf shop is a little hard to find.
Emily Kwong: Alright, so the thing you need to know about the Icy Waves Surf Shop is that it caters to a surfing community in a rain forest, 200 miles away from any other town. And I couldn’t find it for awhile, I was wandering around a neighborhood, glancing at people’s home numbers trying to figure it out…oh wait, here it is at the back…are you Jack?
Jack Endicott: Yes.
Emily Kwong: Nice to meet you. Whoa!
Jack Endicott is sporting Carhartts, an improbable tan and a big grin. It all began in 1999, when the Endicott family went to Oahu. Jack and Laura have seven kids.
“And they said, you know, ‘Dad, the waves are just as good at home as they are here. Can you get some wetsuits and boogies boards?’ And I thought, ‘Uh, how are we going to do this?’ Endicott said.
Endicott called up a company in Santa Cruz and asked for wet suits wholesale, not just for his kids, but for the surf-curious in Yakutat. Water temperatures hover in the 50s in summertime. But in wintertime, when the waves are biggest, the temperature can drops below 40. The shop printed 300 shirts, which Endicott found excessive.
But after a year or so, word got out in the press, CBS News visited. “And then it just went boom!,” Endicott said with a chuckle.
“So we’re getting flooded with calls and people wanting t-shirts and do you really surf in Alaska and… blah blah blah,” Endicott said. “So it was really a big deal.”
“Alaska. There is big surf in Alaska. It took me awhile to believe in that, but I think it’s true, you know?” Brazilian surfer Carlos Burle said in a video shot by Red Bull in 2009. When Red Bull visited to surf the outer reef, Yakutat’s waves were 16 feet high. Endicott thinks they were even 20.
Endicott then pulls out boards scribbled with black signatures like yearbook pages, signed by famous big wave surfers: Garrett McNamara, Michael Ho, Layne Beachley.
The business supports about a dozen local surfers and has helped put Alaskan surfing on the map. And the funny part? Endicott knew nothing about surfing when he began. He jokes, “I look more like a farmer than a surfer.”
“Actually, I came here from Alliance, Nebraska from a weather service radar site and before that I was in Salt Lake for a year and before that I started my career in Kodiak,” Endicott said. He went on to be a meteorologist for the National Weather Service for 36 years.
Icy Waves is pre-retirement gig that breaks even and lets his family travel. They sell surfboards and wet suits, but make most of their money with trademarked t-shirts. One has a surfer riding an ATV.
“Beautiful place and when the sun’s out and the winds not blowing, it’s pretty special,” Endicott said, as we get out of the car at Canon Beach.
The shore is covered in sculptural driftwood. The sand green black. There’s no surfer at the moment, but plenty of waves. And though Endicott prefers paddle-boarding these days, he gets the appeal of surfing completely.
“It’s that 30 second, one minute ride. You’re just at one with nature. You’re focused. You’re not thinking about your problems or money or anything else,” Endicott said.
It’s fast and silent, he adds, and the power of nature is pushing you.
The Endicotts plan to retire soon. Jack wants to spend more time fishing and less time manning the shop. But they hope that whoever owns Icy Waves next will keep prices low so anyone who wants to catch a wave, can.