Surfing in Iceland.
I was the last one on board the surf trip to Iceland. I had some other stuff going on but as things happen I had a small personal crisis and just decided I needed some time with friends away from home for a while.
It was a pretty rough idea we wanted to go on a surf trip to Iceland in the middle of winter and sleep in a tiny van. We rented a tiny Renault Kangoo from kuku campers with nothing in it except a mattress and we were off. A week in a van set up to sleep two people with 3 full grown men sleeping head to toe because it was the only way to fit all 3 off us was not perfect but it worked. We did not really care about anything except the adventure. The idea of surfing in Iceland was something that had never really crossed any of our minds. We grew up in Australia, me in an area where you can wear board shorts in winter. Now the thought of surfing in the snow in minus 5 looking at glaciers was a whole other world, an unexplored realm of surfing that I personally never thought I would experience. I had surfed in the cold before, places like Canada, the PNW and Denmark but it was always just cold in the water and not that bad on land. But here we were cold before we even got in the water. We were putting on wetsuits that were already frozen solid after our first surf.
We had no where to have a hot shower or even warm up after surfing, our stuff never dried because we had no where to hang it. It was so cold we had to take turns rotating the person in the front seat because the heater would not reach the back. I remember sitting in the back seat freezing, my toes so cold all I could think about was getting back in the front. But I just had to tough it out for the other guys because they had gone through the same thing for twice as long without asking to get back in the front.
This was our tiny little van we lived in for a week.
The whole experience was so raw and basically exactly what we had expected when we left. We could not really imagine to what extent at the time but it lived up to every expectation we had.
Finding waves in Iceland.
We had no real idea where to go surfing, we tried to look up some stuff on the net but I suppose the people that had been there before us had put in a lot of work and were not really trying to just give that knowledge out on the internet so we were kind of on our own. We looked through google maps constantly to try and find points and hidden bays that might be protected from certain winds or that might be better for certain swell directions. We just drove and pulled over where ever it looked like it might be open to swell and offshore.
But it was an island and with so many bays and points and swell coming from every direction we figured it would be almost impossible to not get waves. It just came down to driving and making the right decisions based off little to no information. Fortunately we had all done a lot of unknown surf travel and kind of knew what to look for, Alex in particular was the map master and kept us all on top of everything.
One thing we kind of didn’t count on was how strong the wind actually can be. You see the numbers and footage of other people leaning into the wind and stuff like this but it does not really hit home until you are in it. The numbers are just numbers and it never looks that bad. We had nights where we almost couldn’t sleep because the wind was whipping sand and dirt up against our car with such ferocity that the noise was almost impossible to sleep through. But once you had a direction and a map showing where might be protected from this it is not that bad and it can almost work to your advantage… or not.
I remember one spot where the wind picked up so badly it actually hurt if we didn’t manage to get onto a wave just spitting ice-cold daggers of water back into our faces.
Eventually getting head high barrels while watching snow falling on the water looking out at the most incredible completely snow covered mountains I have ever seen was something I will never forget. Even if I did have to get out after an hour to two hours because I was actually 100% positive I had frost bite on my feet. I would have bet money that when I took my booties off that my toes were going to be black. Fortunately for me that was not the case. Always take good gear! Most of what I had was alright but my booties were about 2 mil thick and not ok at all for the temperatures.
Overall it was a pretty harsh experience, we were cold the whole time, we didn’t know where we were going, it was a constant race against the clock and day light, being winter we had about 6-7 hours of day light per day, most of our gear was pretty shitty. I basically had summer shoes on with mesh on top. I think it was more through sheer determination that it worked out as well as it did. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Walking through fields in the snow not having any idea where we were going or what we were going to see and eventually seeing 4ft wedges barrelling down the beach was so mind blowing that I feel like I would have dealt with far worse to experience what we experienced again.