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Iceland's Secret Waves

Last winter, London based photographer Tom Cockram went in search of Iceland's secret waves. Joining him was Icelandic native and true cold water surfer Ingo, who led the way to their icy valhalla. With Finisterre kit in tow, Tom and Ingo captured the magic of this once untouched landscape live in technicolour. We caught up with them both off the back of their trip and recent film. 

Iceland - once an untouched landscape, mysterious to the fairer weather adventurers - has become a destination for travellers and cold water surfers alike. With more and more flights being scheduled to Reykjavik and the eco-tourism industry booming - what makes Iceland so special for the kind of exploration and discovery touched upon in Secret Waves? 

TC: For me, the diversity in the landscape in Iceland is like no other. There are snow capped mountains next to huge sprawling bays, and tiny ragged coves near barren expanses of flatlands - the colours and shapes in this range of landscapes make it a really inspiring place to be. Even though there is a huge tourism industry present, there is a great sense of space and the beauty of the raw nature is overwhelming. Plus, one trip is never enough; the sheer scale of the island means that the more places you visit in Iceland, the more you realise there is still to discover. 

Friendships are forged and solidified on surf trips, and the relationship between videographer and surfer is pretty key to capturing the magic. Having not known each other very well, how did that dynamic work? 

TC: We were on the same page from day one really. We had a few conversations before we flew out there, sharing storyboards and ideas, and his passion really came through. Ingo knew exactly what we were looking for and where to find it with his experience and knowledge from running Arctic Surfers, even if it meant driving from one side of the island to the other. 

The project really became a huge road trip, five of us squeezed into a 4x4 chasing waves. We just had a good laugh. 

IO: Part of what I do for work is reading people, there is a psychology to my line of work -  we need to make sure that people we bring on tour know and can handle what they are getting themselves into. 

With Tom Cockram and his crew we hit it off pretty well. We had some phone/skype conversations before their visit and they agreed to our terms when it came to filming and showcasing Iceland and its surf. For me it’s important that people hear the real story and understand what our conditions are like. There is not pumping surf in Iceland every day or week but good waves can be scored when you travel with locals who have been scouting out our cost lines and mastering the weather for the last 10-20 years. 

Subject to the wind and the weather - what were you guys up to on your downtime? 

TC: Going in spring we were quite lucky with the weather and with extended daylight hours, so we could all surf even after a long day of filming. On the last day we started surfing at 1am! 

IO: Traveling between locations, sight seeing, enjoying local food, music and culture, other activities and many other things. We always have a jammed packed schedule when our guest travel with us. Our main problem was that there were way too many things to see and visit and we were never able to cover it all in 5-6 days.   


Given accessibility, how much more room do you see for cold water exploration? 

TC: There still such a lot to discover with cold water surfing. In Iceland due to its coastline shape there are still lots of new spots to find that are difficult to reach and large parts of the island are still relatively untouched. 

IO: There’s still a lot to explore and places to visit...... It is just not easy and can be quite demanding.  Some of our future missions in Iceland will require us to have access to plains, helicopters, boats, snowmobiles and jet skies.  

Iceland Kit Essentials 

Do you want to continue making films focused on surf exploration in these outermost regions? Where will your passion take you next?   

TC: I enjoy making work about adventure and peoples unique stories and I think this goes hand in hand with surfing in extreme places. There's a huge list of places I want to explore, some involving surf and some not. But I do always find when working with new ideas that I am drawn back to the ocean.

From Taylor Steele’s Proximity to Jack Johns’ Far North - there’s no shortage of amazing photographers and filmmakers out there. Where does your inspiration come from when shooting surf? 

TC: This is my first film piece as a director so most of my influences are photographers. But I remember watching Edges of Sanity by Chris McClean and loved the rawness of the landscape and the reality depicted of cold water surfing. Also books like Slow is Fast by Dan Malloy, Kanoa Zimmerman and Kellen Keene and The Fisherman’s Son by Chris Malloy have beautiful photography of real stories around adventure and surf.

Directed by Tom Cockram
Featuring Ingo Olsen
DOP - Jack Reynolds
Art Director - Stephen Owen
Editor - Keith Motram
Camera Assistant - Graham Smout
Grading - Oisín O'Driscoll
Sound Mix - Chris Banks
Soundtrack - British Sea Power

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