The Arctic Surfers of Lofoten



My camera whirred away rapidly snapping photos as another surfer disappeared under the wave and his board went soaring through the air. A stunning snow-capped mountain, one of many in Norway’s Lofoten Islands looming over the bay where 20 or so surfers had decided to spend their Saturday afternoon. I was trying to get my Chris Burkard* on, but knew that I needed a lot more practice before I was anywhere near that standard.

“Du har venner der ute vet?”

I turn to see an older Norwegian bloke standing beside me, looking at me expectantly.

“Uhh, sorry. In English?” I asked hopefully.

“Ah, I see. Do you have friends out there?”

“No, I’m just travelling and thought I’d come and see how it compares to Australian surfing. These guys are crazy!”

I don’t think anybody, surfers included questioned their craziness. Kitted out in thick 8mm wetsuits, they would brave the cold waters of the Arctic for hours on end, waiting for that perfect wave. When you truly love something, you find ways to make it happen. And for these guys, they loved surfing.

The man I was speaking to was the father of one of the guys out there, pointing him out as the one just running into the surf, green board and wetsuit with all the added necessities. He sort of just laughed and agreed that they were crazy, but alas, as are most Norwegians. His son was spending a year in the islands, getting as much surfing and skiing in as he possibly could. The mountains weren’t yet ready to be scaled and skied down so that meant every waking moment was spent out in the surf. The father himself was quite a keen sailor, and told me a few of his own crazy exploits he’d had over the years.

I was quite surprised to see so many people out in the water, although really I shouldn’t have been. Arctic surfing is growing more and more in popularity as people realise that not all the greatest waves are found in the far warmer Australias, Hawaiis and Californias. I mean there is a reason why the Lofoten Masters surfing competition is part of the pro surfing circuit these days, calling all the big names to come visit in late October. I had missed it by two weeks but apparently it had been wild. From all the inlets and bays I had driven into and explored, and some of the breaks I had witnessed from the beaches, this place was made for surfers.

Try and imagine your standard crazy Norwegian who would go surfing in Arctic waters. Yep, these guys fit the bill perfectly. Big shaggy beards and broad, beaming smiles were the only things that escaped the cover of the black neoprene wetsuit. Caps, gloves and booties are a necessity in these waters, where they would spend all afternoon, waiting for that perfect wave.

All the surfers congregated together, looking like a pack of seals as they chatted and gossiped, waiting for the decent sets to roll through. And when they did, as with all surfers, it was every man for himself. There were several quality surfers out there but from my attempted photography practice, I managed to pick out all the guys who were practicing their dismounts from the tougher waves. It made for a few laughs but some average photos.

I chatted away with this older guy for the better part of an hour, my camera constantly whirring away as I practiced in an area I hadn’t spent much time working on. He was a lovely bloke who helped me get a bit of an insight into surfing and sailing scene throughout Norway until it started to chuck it down with rain. With that, I bid him farewell and jumped back in my car to continue my road trip.

These guys were tough, but I mean hey, it’s not like they have sharks to worry about… So Australians > Norwegians 😉

*Chris Burkard is an incredible surf photographer who has spent a lot of time snapping images of Arctic surfers. Imagine a man with a board, staring down barrelling sets under the Northern Lights. Yeah, I’m definitely not there yet.

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  1. Katie Featherstone - January 12, 2016 at 5:36 pm Reply

    Bloody hell, this looks intense.

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