Iceland: Shelter From The Storm

Field notes on the Icelandic surfers

After all day driving in the ice, crossing glaciers in our vastly inadequate two-wheel-drive mini-van; after surfing in the snow and 40-something degree water, with no where to stay, far from home, tired, cold and slightly traumatized… after all this, feeling like we just might curl up and shiver ourselves to a deathy little sleep in our van, we learn that some local Icelandic surfers, whom we met just one time on the opposite side of this country, have already checked us into a nearby ski lodge. Not only this, but they dropped by earlier in the day to turn on the heat for us. The place is already warm when we arrive, and we crumble into sleep with barely a chance to say thank you.

But our dreams are toasty with gratitude.

Warmth is everything in this place. We're staring straight into the eye of the Arctic Circle, head-butting storms with our will to experience this rugged frontier. And despite our resolve to not complain, after hours of standing in the rain and snow, sometimes it helps just to state the obvious:

It's cold here.

It's very f–king cold here.

And when we first randomly came upon a small gathering of local surfers (there's maybe only a dozen serious guys here), they asked us, "How do you like Iceland so far?" it just sort of fell out of our mouths:

"Cold," we said in eight-part harmony. "It's cold here."

Like, no shit.

Like this is something they need to hear from us.

But then again, short and powerful Ingol is standing there in his shorts and a T-shirt, while the rest of us shiver inside our giant down jackets. Just looking at him makes you go Brrrrrr. Clearly, they're hardy stock here. Built for long dark winters and endlessly frozen conditions. Ingol surfs, snowboards, skates, plays hockey, and right now he's building a changing shack near the local point break; a post-surf shelter from the bitter wind. "I like to stay active," he smiles.

And nearby is Oli, who's recently been pioneering breaks in the frozen north all on his own. Up there, you could snowboard down the mountain and launch off into a {{{200}}}-yard pointbreak… with no one around to see it. And Oli's brother, George, surfs in his 5/4 like he's wearing boardshorts, loose, stylish and super clean. Even the visiting pros (Dan, Dane and Timmy) are impressed with his style. Who would have expected this small enclave of coldwater Vikings, with only a few years of surfing experience behind them, to be ripping so hard. But it's true, the surfers of Iceland are extremely devoted, unexpectedly qualified, and totally gracious to us as visitors: sharing us their breaks and local knowledge, helping but not hovering, and providing us shelter from the storm when we need it most.

And then we hear the story of how another sponsored surf mission came through here (Iceland's kinda the new Morocco — the place everyone's going cause no one's going there), discovered new breaks (you almost can't help it here), and wouldn't tell them where it was. How lame is that? The locals couldn't understand it, and yet (thankfully) they managed not to hold it against us.

SURFING Mag and the Sipping Jetstreams film crew discovered a new break the other day, too (oh, we can't wait to show you this insane slabby left with Dan Malloy, Dane Reynolds and Timmy Curran just going OFF — but you'll have to wait for the mag to see it in all its glory) and you can be sure we'll be drawing a map… for the locals (not the mag; sorry, you'll have to fly to Iceland, buy your own $15 dollar beers and find it yourself). Sure, it's cold here, but that doesn't mean you can't share a little warmth.

To the surfers of Iceland, we just want to say thanks. We learn a little something everywhere we travel, and you've shown us that the best way to survive the cold is to stick close together. Skal.


For more photos from Iceland, check out the photo gallery HERE