In the words of fellow accomplished photographer/videographer Chris McClean, Elli Thor Magnusson is "the cat making the scene over there tick". Known for flying under the radar, we recently spoke with Iceland's leading surf photographer to get some fresh, cold water perspective.
#1: For me cold water surfing is more than the actual act of riding waves. It’s equal parts surfing, the journey to find the waves, the people you travel with, dealing with all the elements and then all the random stuff that happens in between.
#2: We watched this wave from high above, barely seeing it through the heavy snow. It didn’t look epic. Dane Gudauskas paddled out there solo. What we thought was an overhead wave turned out to be at least twice the size and as the tide dropped and the snow squall passed it turned pretty damn good.
#3 Same wave, half an hour later. A good example off how quickly things can change in Iceland.
#4 People often think that low populated cold water places like Iceland have the cleanest air and pristine beaches. The former might be true but even on the most remote beaches there is a crazy amount of marine litter. This beach in Northern Iceland is a good example. Years will go by without a person setting foot on there, yet it is littered with plastic.
#5 I love shooting longboarding and there are few surfers that are as versatile and stylish as Justin Quintal. On this day he surfed a heavy slab on his short board and then went to town on his log a few miles down the coast. see next photo for slab.
#6 Justin surfing the slab.
#7 Me and Heidar Logi share the same obsession with not missing a swell or the chance to explore a new area. We’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time together. Last winter I think we did back to back trips every day for two months straight. He also rips on a surfboard and is a solid human being.
#8 This is my favourite stretch of coastline and I would literally amputate a few toes and fingers for this little plot of land, so far no luck.
#9 For a lot of people cold water surfing is a novelty, something they try once in a lifetime. They either love it or hate it. Dane Gudauskas falls in the first category. Every trip I’ve done with him has been a treat. He has the most positive outlook, no mater the circumstances, and for a pessimistic person like me it is liberating. I also love watching him do turns and we share a common interest in all things Gram Parsons.
#10 Me and Heidar Logi bought this old 4x4 Van together. We were tired of having to drive away from waves to find places to sleep for the night. This was the first trip we did on it. It has since proved to have pretty good wave karma. Heidar looks pretty happy with it.
#11 Not every session in Iceland is freezing cold or extreme. Lee Ann Curren and Steph Gilmore are happy to enjoy some mellow fall waves.
#12 It doesn’t always take the biggest waves to impress. I’ve been to this bay several times, seen far more epic waves, but I’ve never seen it as pretty or as clear as on this tiny little offshore day.
#13 Some places are harder to get to than others. Betty’s farm gets completely snowed in during the winter and the only way to get over the mountain pass and into the Fiord is by snowmobiles. Last winter was unseasonably warm and as we came down from the pass the last bit down to the coast didn’t have enough snow for the snowmobiles. Thor, Betty’s son, sorted it out for us.
#14 During the shortest days of the year the light lasts for about 4 hours, but these 4 hours have the most incredible light. This was shot mid day in December.
#15 This is Ingo Olsen. He is a part of the first generation of surfers in Iceland and the one who got me into surfing in the first place. He spends more time looking at swell and wind forecast than most people do on Facebook.
#16 The weather in Iceland can change really quickly and the weather forecasts over here are usually more akin to guess work than actual facts. On this trip the forecast did a u-turn and we decided to drive for 9 hours to the other side of the island. During the drive we watched as every road started to close behind us, finally being grounded for two days at these inland cabins because every road and mountain pass in the area was shut down. Shot on kodak Ultramax 400.
All words and photos courtesy of Elli himself. Follow his cold water journey here.
Portrait photos by Chris McClean