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Arctic Surf | Tina Bingham

Surf adventurer Tina travelled to Iceland as part of the Finisterre team testing the new winter collection. We caught up with Tina to hear about her first Arctic surf and how the experience has profoundly changed her outlook on life.

Tell us about Iceland.

Iceland is breath-taking. I remember feeling overwhelmed by the dramatic landscapes; it was as if they had completely taken over mind and body. My senses felt like they were constantly being aroused and bombarded, in the best way possible, with the natural environment and energy.

Iceland had some interesting textures to offer. It feels and looks very hard and hostile a lot of the time, from those volcanic hard edges and flat peaked mountains, but when you look closely and explore around, there is soft mossy ground and even blueberries growing everywhere. There are no forests in Iceland and very few trees but somehow it still appeared green and alive.

I miss feeling that wind on my face, those dramatic mountain ranges, the reflections in the lakes and the sheer beauty of pretty much everywhere you turn to look. I recall taking in some deep breaths of fresh air and really appreciating the freshness and pureness of the air that was going into my lungs. Quite a far cry from the Tokyo air that I get back at home.        

How did you get there?

I caught up with some members of the Finisterre crew in Reykjavik; from there we all piled on to a tiny domestic plane to Isafjordur, just about squeezing my long board in (it was suggested that I left it behind). During the 40 minute plane ride over, we were all drooling out of the window at the magnificent views that Iceland greeted us with.   

We drove for hours, through long narrow rocky tunnels, huge mountains and valleys, running alongside lakes and ocean for miles, led us to the seriously rocky track that meanders down to Betty’s valley. The views were so stunning and I could feel that this was going to be an adventure of a lifetime. This place was something really special.

How was your first surf in Arctic waters?

We had been staying in the valley for a couple of days, keeping an eye on the small surf, the low tide would bring in some good looking waves. We got a nice opportunity to all get in the water together, Dan, Noah, Amy and myself. I recall being consumed in the scenery and in the moment of being in such a beautiful place and time. I would say that the waves were more suited to a short boarder, being pretty fast breaking and hollow on the take off, but nonetheless I had one of the most memorable surfs of my life.  

I was bracing myself for the cold water experience, it being my first surf in the Arctic. To be honest, the cold was not on my mind; I was trying my best not to get slammed by the beach breakers.

And was it as cold as you expected?

It sounds a bit funny, but I have no memories of being cold at all whilst in the ocean. To me it felt pretty similar to the temperatures I usually experience in the peak of winter in Chiba, Japan.

The only cold memories I have are from when we all jumped into the freezing waterfalls and lakes. This was definitely one of my highlights of the trip; it felt amazing to overcome the dislike of being uncomfortably cold for no reason. Before, this idea would have been hard to digest, unless I was in the water trying to catch waves. I felt like I became close to the cold, and started to become friends with it.

Any other good waves?

Another big highlight for me was a taste of body surfing. We were held up by a storm and heavy winds on the day we were supposed to set sail on the Aurora. We couldn’t get the go ahead for our boat/hike/surf trip just yet, so instead we looked for waves. The forecast seemed pretty dismal and the wind was howling everywhere we went, strong enough to power your walk into a run. We bumped into some tourists whilst jumping off a pier into the lake, and they spoke of a spot they had just been to, which they said had some good waves.

We rather quickly got over there and low and behold we were greeted with some waves; nothing crazy good, but surprisingly good considering how messy everywhere else was. I took the opportunity to give body surfing a go. I was non-stop smiling and laughing out loud as I caught waves with the hand plane. Swimming out there in a 5mm wetsuit, boots, gloves, fins and a hand plane was not the easiest of tasks, but completely worth it. I remember feeling surprised at how close to the wave I was and the sound of it peeling over in my ears. A different dimension of wave riding of which I fell in love with instantly. Since my return to Japan I have started plotting a way to make my own hand plane out of some recycled wood. Noah suggested I could use an old skateboard, because it already has that perfect concave in it.

How has the experience altered your outlook?

Iceland and the adventure that went down on the trip holds many special memories and experiences for me; a lot of “firsts” and definitely not lasts. The trip has had a profound effect on my outlook on life and has cranked up the adventure spirit in me.

Making the journey to Furufjords by boat, hiking over mountains and valleys with my longboard, followed by camping on the beach and drinking fresh stream water for days is a whole other story. I struggled a bit at times during the hike, where I was offered help with carrying my longboard, not because I was the only girl on the adventure, not because the rest of the boys didn’t think I could handle it, but because I was still suffering damaged ligaments in my ankle. I carried my board half way through the 10k hike there, and half way back, but that is the only offer of help I got. The rest of the trip was about us all being equals. Man or woman, we were just being who we are.

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 Interview by Rachel Buchanan | Images by James Bowden and David Gray

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