About this project
I’m Kris Farmen, a novelist,
historian, and freelance journalist based in Alaska. I’m also an avid surfer—yes, there are
surfers here—and I intend to spend the summer of 2013 on an extended surfing
trip across Alaska’s coastline, exploring the places, people, and ecosystems
that make surfing on the Last Frontier such a unique experience. The result will be a book of creative
nonfiction called Out in the Cold.
Surf magazines periodically run
the odd story about surfing in Alaska, but these pieces focus either on the
experiences of globe-trotting professional surfers backed by the big dollars of
international surf-wear brands, or the wide-eyed travel observations of an
elite corps of surf journalists for whom a surf safari to Alaska is an exotic
once-in-a-lifetime experience. Nobody
writes about the local crews, the resident Alaskans who are driven to surf
here, and more importantly, why we’re
driven to surf in such a cold, difficult place.
So far, we’ve been just the local color added to the slick magazine
story. I aim to correct that.
I’ll be travelling to different
surfing locales around the state, most prominently Kodiak, Yakutat, and Sitka,
as well as other more remote breaks, some of which have never been surfed
before. I will be camping and surfing in
each place, and seeking out local surfers for interviews regarding their take
on surfing, why they feel compelled to surf in Alaska’s frigid water, and to
collect oral histories of surfing in Alaska.
The end result of all this will be the book Out in the Cold. I will
begin drafting the manuscript in the winter of 2013, with an eye on publication
in late 2014 or early 2015.
A round-trip ferry ticket for me
and my truck (which is needed to transport my boards, wetsuit, wall tent and
camping gear) to Kodiak costs nearly $500.
A similar passage to Yakutat costs closer to $800. Airplane charters to remote breaks can run up
to $1000 or more. Then there’s food,
fuel, and of course, surf wax. It might
also be nice to rent an occasional cabin or hotel room along the way so I can
dry out, take a hot shower, and check my email.
This all adds up quicker than you might think.
To my knowledge I am the only
surf writer based in Alaska, which gives me a unique window into the local
surfing scene. Out in the Cold will be the first book written about surfing in
Alaska. Part travelogue, part surf
memoir, and part journalistic investigation, it will offer a unique view into
the world of those of us who choose to pursue the surfing lifestyle at the
extreme edge of the world. With your
help, I can make this dream a reality.
Thanks very much for your time.
Risks and challenges
I already have a publisher lined up, so the single biggest challenge to this project is funding. Alaska is a very expensive place to travel, particularly when you’re talking about the kind of remote wilderness areas where I’m headed. Even getting to on-the-map places like Kodiak, Yakutat, and Sitka costs an arm and a leg.
Riskwise, there are any number of possibilities. This is, after all, bush Alaska. There are plenty of hungry bears on Alaska’s gulf coast, to say nothing of the usual ocean hazards of sharks and territorial sea lions. In most of the places this journey will take me, there’s no hospital to rush to if I get hurt, nor any lifeguard to call if I’m swept out to sea. But I’m a well-seasoned surfer, born and raised in Alaska, and have lived most of my life in such places. I know how to take care of myself in wilderness situations.
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