On the frigid waves of Alaska rides a surfer

By Paul Vercammen, CNNPublished 13th November 2014
We journeyed down Alaska's Seward Highway when a story appeared before us like a supernatural vision.
A wave, a long wave, stretched shore to shore, beneath a panorama of snow and icy-gray November splendor in Alaska's Cook Inlet.
And there it was, in the distance.
"They're surfing! Surfing in Alaska!" I exclaimed in immature glee to CNN photographer Jeff King, who was driving.
He and I are a journalistic light infantry: We get our assignments, grab a LiveU (a video phone that replaces a satellite truck) and off we go to far-flung destinations to report on politics.
Now we entered hyper-drive to document a traveler's surprise: We wanted to catch a wave and a surfer on camera. In Alaska. In 32 degrees.
We pulled over. I took the wheel. And Jeff began filming out of the window of the SUV rental.
Just who was this mystery surfer?
Would they be a good interview?
We arrived on the shore to meet the arctic surfer.
The trim athlete in the black wetsuit, hood and gloves was a 22-year-old woman.
Hailey Driver, as it turns out, is an Alaskan adventurer who seems as if she's jacked up on adrenalin, Mountain Dew and caramel corn.
Could we film her?
Why yes, she said.
By the way, she added, do you want some video she made of herself using a GoPro camera? And with a drone flying overhead?
Some stories come gift-wrapped.
Driver told us about the thrill of the Alaskan surf and about the constant strain on the thighs during 15-minute rides on the tidal bore.
"You just wait for the bore tide to take you away," she said. "You ride it for as long as you can go, which can be miles."
What in the name of the Beach Boys is a tidal bore?
This rarity from Mother Nature occurs when the edge of the incoming tide gets pushed up by the outgoing flow of a river or narrow inlet's current, forming a wave.
There are a few dozen tidal bores shredding the globe, in all climates and perhaps most dramatically in Canada's Bay of Fundy.
Alaska gave Jeff and me our first glimpse of a tidal bore.
We love this state.
During a prior trip, we played a hunch and found Sarah Palin voting in a hockey rink on Super Tuesday and had a nice live chat in 2012.
Now we found Hailey Driver surfing in 40-degree water between so much amazing scenery.
Even she says it's hard to stay focused and not fall off the board.