Our Swedish friends from 6/5/4 hopped from fjord to fjord in pursuit of cold waves and good times. Kitted out in our Nieuwland Works wetsuits, they spent their days paddling out in icy waters, whale watching and warming up by open fires. Cheers to Johan and the boys for sharing their adventure with us - another one to add to the bucket list.
OUT IN THE FJORDS
The idea surfaced back in the summer while we hung out beneath the 6/5/4 store in Stockholm. We were playing ping-pong, drinking beers and talking about surf trips for the Autumn when Joel pitched Iceland as a alternative. None of us had been there to chase waves before and everyone seemed to have that look of excitement about the idea.
Joel had a friend, Camilla who had moved to the Westfjords of Iceland a few years back in search of adventure and skiing. She gave us some info on a few waves around her area and also put us in contact with captain Sigurdur “Siggi” Jonsson, owner/operator of Aurora-Arktika. Arktika is a steel hull sailing sailing boat based in the Westfjords and is primarily used for Greenland charters in the summer and ski charters throughout the spring. After a few emails with Siggi discussing our options regarding surf, we settled on a week in mid October and decided to stay in touch as it got closer to talk about the forecast.
One week before departure we met up to discuss the prognosis and logistics. The swell forecast looked great for the whole week which meant we would have a heap of options with both the car and the boat. But if there was one thing we new about the weather on Iceland is that it can change daily from what is predicted and sure enough the swell we were hoping for in the beginning of the week ended up disappearing completely. There was still the possibility of a solid swell for the back half of the week and all I could do was shut my eyes and hope.
It was hard to control our excitement once we landed in Reykjavik. We were like a bunch of grommets as we loaded up the defender and hit the road. After the 6 hour journey we finally made it to Isafjordur where Camilla met us and showed us to our warehouse apartment so we could get a few hours sleep before we met Siggi.
Siggi invited us all on board the Arktika for breakfast the next morning to chat more about the forecast. Unfortunately it still didn’t look like we were going to see any significant swell until later in the week, but after a few cups of coffee and listening to some of his stories about the wild life in the area, we decided to head out for a couple of nights anyway. The excitement levels were still high and by lunch time the boat was stocked and we were motoring out of the fjords, heading north west towards a huge nature reserve that is inaccessible by car.
Within an hour after leaving Isafjordur we encountered our first pod of humpback whales. Most of us had never seen humpbacks up this close before and we just stood in silence watching these huge mammals surfacing for air before diving to the depths once again. A few of us suited up and jumped in the water in the slight chance of having an up close encounter. I’ve never felt so small than in that moment, floating around in the greenland sea with huge Humpback whales swimming by only meters away.
The remainder of the day continued in much the same way with an incredible dolphin encounter and the best cod fishing we’d ever experienced. As we sat around the dinner table that night eating fresh cod and having a beer, the movie “The Truman Show” came to mind and it felt like we were right in the middle of our own version.
The next morning a few of us got up a little too early for the sunrise and spent the first hour drinking coffee in the dark. When the sun finally made its way over the mountain peaks and down into the fjords it was really hard to take in the beauty and rawness of the landscape. Off in the distance we could see some small lines of swell breaking into a river mouth and we decided to take the paddle boards and go for a look. The waves we found were tiny but the sun was out and the sea was like a mirror so we spent a couple of hours just exchanging little peelers on the SUP’s before heading back to the boat for breakfast. We spent the rest of the day exploring the rugged coastline, fishing and were lucky enough to swim with Humpback whales once again. After dinner we all sat up on deck watching a small display of the aurora borealis before climbing down into our bunks.
The sky was overcast when we woke up and the sea was looking moody. The wind had begun to build ahead of the storm front we were expecting in the next couple of days so the decision was made to pull the anchor and head back to Isafjordur to plan the next stage of the trip. We sat in the wheel house with Siggi on the way back listening to his stories about his expeditions to Greenland and his polar bear encounters and also what it was like to grow up in the West fjords of Iceland. After tasting his dried cod jerky and many cups of coffee later, we arrived back to the small fishing town, un packed the gear and said our goodbyes. Now it was time to load up the defender and hunt down some waves. The swell was meant to start building in the morning so we spent the afternoon driving the coast roads around the local fjords and taking a small hike before dinner.
We were up early and made the hour long journey out to the most exposed part of the coast to see what the swell had done overnight. We arrived to a bay that was completely flat. We started to doubt and wonder if we under estimated how hard it would be to find good waves up here. After walking around the beautiful bay for half an hour, the call was made to head back to town and re-group. We checked the forecast again and talked with one of the local surfers about a spot a few hours south that was meant to be a swell magnet. He said it could be a pretty decent size and super fun if the wind behaved. So we jumped back in the defender and started driving south in the hope that we would score our first Icelandic surf.
The road turned to dirt and started to snake its way up the valley and over the mountains. As we started to descend into the next valalley we could see some lines of swell pushing into the bay in the distance. The excitement and suspense was killing me and the road seemed to wind on forever. Finally we arrived at the beach and parked up the defender on the edge of a river mouth while we watched the sets roll in. It was still small but the right and left peak had great shape and with the swell forecast to keep building through the afternoon and evening it looked like we were going to finally get our first surf in this remote part of the world.
We drove up to meet Betty, the local farm owner and unloaded our gear into her daughters house where we would spent the next couple of nights and after politely declining a cup of tea we suited up and ran back down to the peak frothing out. It was already starting to increase in size and we surfed the shoulder high waves until dark, tripping out on the scenery and the quality of waves we had somehow managed to score. The stoke levels were through the roof and the anticipation was high of what tomorrow might bring. As I lay awake in bed that night, the wind began to whistle through the windows and I couldn’t wait for first light to see what this storm would produce.
We woke up too early. It was still dark out side but we could just make out lines of white water in the distance. We were over excited as we went into the kitchen to make coffee and have some breakfast before we went down to check it out. The tide was quite high but there were still some bombs rolling through. The right looked amazing, spitting as it reeled off towards the beach and the left was a little shorter but looked super fun too. With no other surfers in sight I could barely contain myself as another set rolled in and broke like the one before it.
Birk and Joel suited up, paddled out and split the peak all morning. We couldn’t believe Joel was getting barrelled in Iceland! We had two more amazing sessions that day with all the boys sharing the peak and screaming every time someone took off and began driving down the line. The vibe in the line up was totally surreal. The combination of the scenery, together with the remote location and the quality of waves was almost too much to take in. Everyone was buzzing at the dinner table that night, laughing and sharing different experiences from the crazy day we’d just had and hoping for a repeat the next day. The swell was predicted to stick around for the last day of our adventure but unfortunately the wind was meant to shift slightly. We decided to check it at first light and make a plan of attack.
The wind was howling from a slightly different direction and the peak from the previous day was now blown out with huge ribs running up the face. The swell had backed of slightly but the sets still rolled in consistently. We were all still in froth mode so we quickly ate breakfast, said goodbye to Betty and hit the road again with our defender packed full of gear. It was hard to leave that magical valley but we knew that if we wanted to score some more waves we would have so find some shelter from the wind in the next Fjord. We pulled up at a right hand point that we wanted to check and the first thing we saw were lines marching in. The wind was still strong and funnelling out of the fjord but the direction was a bit more offshore. The waves looked great for laying down a few turns with long walls stretching down the point. Once we had paddled out we realised just how strong the wind was. The conditions weren’t ideal but just the location, just like the previous day was incredible and the fact there was not another human in sight made it a memorable session.
As we made our way back towards Reykjavik we stopped for a swim at a small hot spring and recalled some of the moments we had experienced that week. What started off with the idea of being a total surf trip had evolved into something much more amazing. The raw beauty alone makes Iceland worth a visit but to be lucky enough to score some unforgettable waves made it an adventure that we will compare all others with in the future.