Roark's 'Arc of Aleutia' Is a Remarkable Piece of Surf Cinematography - Stab Mag

Roark’s ‘Arc of Aleutia’ Is a Remarkable Piece of Surf Cinematography

Watch a live premiere tomorrow on Stab Premium.

Words by Alistair Klinkenberg

Editor’s note: Arc of Aleutia has only previously been available on Apple TV, but we’re hosting a one-time-only live streaming tomorrow on Stab Premium (7 pm PDT, Tuesday, March 16). It will be live for one hour only. If you miss it, you miss it. Hope to see you there.

All Photos by Chris Burkard.

Cold water surf travel is a beautiful daydream.

It’s easy to sit on the couch in your temperate home, fire lit for effect rather than necessity, picturing dark ales around the roaring campfire, frozen booties suspended above the flames after a day of slipping down an oily pointbreak framed by snow-tipped mountains. However, when it comes time for that next surf trip, it’s all too easy to stick to consistent waves in warm water.

Harrison’s plenty used to staring out airplane windows, less acclimatised to doing so in a beanie. Photo: Burkard

Consistent waves in warm water has been Harrison Roach’s raison d’etre for the duration of his decorated surfing career, splitting his time between his Queensland home and Indonesia. Then he signed with Roark, and next thing he knew he was embarking on an almighty mission to the Aleutian Islands, a remote collection of atolls in Alaska, to film for their stunning film Arc of Aleutia.

How that for serenity; the Roark team’s first tidal bore session couldn’t possibly have. Photo: Burkard

This mission was part surf trip, part pilgrimage, inspired by frontier traveller Bob Kemp, a man who hiked and photographed his way through the islands, pioneering the inhospitable coastline in the 1970s. Harrison had seen Bob’s grainy photos and heard stories of long points and hollow slabs, but admits that he wasn’t exactly optimistic that the troupe was going to score good waves.

The left (in less than ideal conditions) that Chris Burkhard reckons is worth the trip alone. Photo: Burkard

“In my experience of surf travel I don’t often score surf — there are so many variables. I knew so little about the Aleutians surf-wise that I thought it’d be a long-shot to expect everything to come together,” Harrison told me. “I was focused on and excited about the experience of being somewhere so remote and with such dramatic weather and landscapes — waves were always going to be a bonus. To say I was pleasantly surprised would be a severe understatement.”

About as far from plunging off the side of your Ments charter as you can get. Photo: Burkard

Chris Burkard (who co-directed Arc of Aleutia with Ben Weiland) has changed cold water surf travel permanently with his endless thirst for adventure and his beautiful imagery. Chris had visited the Islands a couple of times before but admits it’s somewhere he’ll never “work out”. Which was the mystique that he and Ben wanted to convey in the film.

“It’s not all about scoring surf”, but it sure makes for a compelling film when you do. Photo: Burkard

“In surfing there’s so many stories about legends; how this wave was found, this guy who did this. In the grand scheme of things, that one person’s legend has led us there on multiple trips to come chase it and pay homage to his memory,” Chris says. “The film’s not really about scoring surf, it’s about legend and how legend affects you.”

There is no nearest hospital. Photo: Burkard

The landscape and backdrops, cinematography and storytelling in Arc of Aleutia are beautiful. Guaranteed to stir your dormant inner-traveler. But the cherry atop the pie of the film is that the crew scored waves. And not just any waves, all kinds of waves — from picturesque tidal bores through long right points, a left that Chris Burkard, a man who’s seen more cold water setups than most, describes as “a wave that people would travel really far to surf,” and perhaps most significantly, a slab that looks equal parts majestic and terrifying.

You’re a long way from medical assistance, you’re in a 6/5/4 with boots, gloves and hood, be honest, you going? Photo: Burkard

“With exposed reef at beginning and end, there were as few options for entry as there were for exit,” Harrison says of the slab. “And with a swell that was perhaps a couple of feet too big, the slab epitomised our humbling Aleutian experience. I never really expected to feel that way in my lifetime, I thought surf exploration was a thing of the past.”

The things the captain of this fishing tub must’ve seen sailing these waters beggars belief. Photo: Burkard

Arc of Aleutia has only previously been available on Apple TV, but we’re hosting a one-time-only live streaming tomorrow on Stab Premium (7 pm Tuesday, March 16 PDT). If you harbour even the slightest sense of romance or an appreciation for beautiful cinematography then it’s essential viewing.

And head over to Roark to get some bomb-proof gear that kept the cast snug for their Alaskan tenure.


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