The Satisfaction Of Surfing The Arctic Circle
To give a bit of perspective, Dan and Sam are your average dudes. They surf between work, earning money to fuel their outdoor interests and still eat a healthy amount of white water from time to time. "Coming from Australia," Sam says, "I’m perpetually spoilt with spots and conditions. Well, at least compared to Dan who lives along the Baltic Sea coastline." Despite their geographical differences, they both share the froth. Froth for adventure, froth for the unknown and pushing each other’s and their own limits. "After many years of missed opportunity, our work / life ratio finally coincided to meet allowing us finally tick something off our bucket lists, surf in the Arctic Circle."
This is the story of two mates road tripping during late autumn through the northern solace of dreary coastal towns and soggy seaside villas.
(ABOVE) Laying in our recently built T4 VW transporter affectionately named Berta, the night’s dew drips down the inside walls. The thought of venturing outside in near negative temperatures is only made bearable with sheepskin-lined gumboots. After a week or so of cruising the coast of Denmark, Norway is in our sights. For Dan and I, this is the furthest north we have been salty. Anxious with excitement and full of Danish chocolate milk, we board a ship to start our Nordic Sojourn.
"Take a map, read the swell and plunge deep into the abyss of adventure."
(BELOW) After making a touch and go crossing from Hirtshals to Kristiansand in a growing four-metre swell, our little sea legs touch down in the Nordic lands for the first time. Compared to Denmark, it’s like peeling back millennia on the landscape. Rugged cliffs laden with what looks like prehistoric vegetation drip sharply into the cavernous fjords below. Wild deciduous foliage lines the highways and fire trails only intensify this towering landscape. Mesmerised, wNe travel north to find shelter from battering 50+knot gusts. We face directly into the gale to minimise movement of our car. Parked between two sheds, we find solace from the storm. As dawn breaks, the storm eases. Venturing out onto the point for a closer look, we feel like strangers in this previously distant land. Our journey has not been in vain, the point is cooking… Better ask the locals first.
(ABOVE) Driving through properties and following the coastal tracks as much as possible, Berta’s shocks are pushed to her limits. We check our map again and, noting the direction of swell and wind, we see a possible point. It’s four foot and empty. I pull on my sub-zero wetsuit from the icy bucket. Running to jump over the last fence, we see a small window of opportunity used to launch boats through the line-up. Submerged dangers boil either side as the rip tears me from the clutches of land once more. Feeling more at home among this strange environment, the familiar comfort of water in my ears, the ice-cream headache each time a duck dive is forced upon me and the lifting feeling as my board trims the high line, I can feel a smile being engraved onto my face.
"Donning the 6mm of necessary rubber we join our new friend for a few shallow shakas"
(BELOW) Later, I sit inside a hygge café on Colour Street in Stavanger. Sharing brews with my convive, our toasted sandwiches arrive from next door. We have come to appreciate this ephemeral warmth from shop fronts and heated foods. Living in a van, even in autumn, can be a frigid experience. In perfect English, Dan tells me that this is nothing… “Try waking up with snow on your tent, uncurling your wetsuit from that previous night’s frost and diving deep into the borderline surfable conditions.” Baltic surfers are riddled with short fetch, high wind systems and yet their froth is unsurpassable. Looking back on the trip already, we have scored. Rather than being taunted with “you really missed it yesterday”, our newfound friends have been stoked on their local conditions and even more so with a couple of travellers. Maybe it’s as simple as respect and consideration for others in the water and by way of karma, nothing but enjoyment is shared throughout any line-up… It is nice to dream sometimes.
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(BELOW) As we both sit here, content to let the day pass us by, remembering waves and sessions past, Dan’s phone lights up. A local legend is heading to a lesser-known spot and tells tales of a sneaky session amidst this horrid day of cross-shore winds. Walking through paddocks and over hand-built boulder fences, our eyes do not deceive us. Setting up the water housing and once again donning the 6mm of necessary rubber we join our new friend for a few shallow shakas.
(BELOW) Dreams aside, the moment has come. Danger Dan has been summoned and must return to an arduous task, the 9-5 commitment all travellers dread. Fuelled by my own stoke and his by proxy, I’m so excited that we arrive to the airport a day early… After a few jokes and one very well timed phone call, we are reunited once more before I travel north to Lofoten.
(ABOVE) Arriving somewhere after years of video and textual stimulus can often lead to an underwhelming experience. We have all heard the stories… “Aww mate, we scored every day for six months straight! No one out and there were free beers and comfy beds every night… You gotta go!” I can honestly tell you, Lofoten is not that kind of place.
The wind can be fierce, so much so that we watched it flip a shipping container in the car park of the local spot. The surf can be haggard or flat as a tack. However, it does pump. There are a plethora of spots on the chain of islands that make up Lofoten. So, take a map, read the swell and plunge deep into the abyss of adventure. The real irony of this part of my trip was my camera broke as I arrived. I could tell you stories like the one above, not let truth get in the way and lead you all on… But, hopefully, this photo will be enough to pique your imagination.
(BELOW) Now, laying comfortably on the floor at the departures lounge back in Berlin, a wave of nostalgia starts to flood over me. A sense of adventure mixed with constant uncertainty and confusion only to be continually rewarded with waves and good company. Norway is certainly the northernmost paradise I’ve enjoyed so far.
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