Inside The Life Of An Alaskan Surf Guide

Words: By Kitt Doucette
Photography: Scott Dickerson

What makes this the perfect job? The Red Bulletin asked SCOTT DICKERSON 

Scott Dickerson wears many different hats. Based in Alaska, he’s a top-notch photographer and aerial cinematographer, an Alaskan surf guide and a US Coast Guard Captain. He also owns a surf shop. For Dickerson, every day is different — and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

THE RED BULLETIN: What do you do for a living?

SCOTT DICKERSON: If I had to be concise it would be “pursue my passions.” My current income streams are still and motion photography, video directing, aerial video (Cineflex and drone operator), surf guide, USCG Captain and surf shop owner. That’s what I can remember right at this moment anyhow! I aim to create a lifestyle where I earn a living doing the things I love. 

How did you get these roles?

All of these various jobs are the result of aggressively pursuing my interests. None require any kind of university degree, just a lot of motivation and focus mixed with a little creativity and self-discipline to stay on track. The closest resemblance to schooling or training I’ve had would be a kind of apprenticeship I did with Daniel Zatz (of ZatzWorks) to learn how to operate the video-camera-stabilizing Cineflex system, which is mostly used while mounted on a helicopter. This is a particularly challenging job to do well since it requires video compositing and focus along with directing the helicopter pilot and often the subject, all at the same time. 

Accessing the rugged and wild coastlines of Alaska is challenging. Helicopters make it easier.

Accessing the rugged and wild coastlines of Alaska is challenging. Helicopters make it easier.


What do you do during a typical day?

I try to avoid typical — I thrive on spontaneity. A perfect day to me starts with no plan and ends with a great story to share. The season will usually predict my main activity during that time, but even that is rarely consistent. It’s spring right now and I’m on our surf boat, the Milo. We’ve been running for almost 24 hours from our home port to meet a crew of top surfers. We’ll take them out in the Alaskan wilderness, show them a good time and produce a good story for their sponsors to share through photos, video and articles.

What’s the best part of your job?

Getting paid to explore the incredible coastal wilderness of Alaska. 

The worst?

I try not to focus on that. But if I could change one thing about most of my work right now it would probably be less computer time. It’s hard to run a media-based business without spending some hours editing, emailing, invoicing and writing licenses. My two-year-old boy would probably say the same thing — he’s not really that enthralled with my computer work, but he loves the other parts.

Trevor Gordon surfing Alaska

Trevor Gordon surfing Alaska.


What was your wildest day on the job?

I was shooting a car commercial with the Cineflex in a helicopter on the salt flats near Salt Lake City. This salty desert is a long way from the ocean wilderness I usually work in. The helicopter broke down early in the day and we ended up waiting around on the flats in some very warm temperatures for a long time. Just before dark we got plucked out of there by a small helicopter and I rode back to the city with the door off and the Cineflex strapped into the seat next to me.

Jake Beaudoin stands on ice covered rocks as he heads out for a winter surf in Alaska.

Jake Beaudoin stands on ice covered rocks as he heads out for a winter surf in Alaska.


What would you be doing if you didn’t have this job?

I’ll never run out of job ideas. The challenge is to stay focused on one long enough to earn some money at it before some other exciting idea distracts me. That’s what’s been so great about photography: I can focus my enthusiasm on such a wide variety of subjects and still keep this photography business turning. My most recent idea is to make custom furniture from driftwood logs. On our surf trips we see a lot of logs washed ashore from all corners of the Pacific. At home I have a large sawmill just waiting to slice some of the beautiful weathered logs into chairs and coffee tables.

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