A secret well kept
A secret well kept
If you thought that surfing is limited to warm places with white sand, guess again!
Surfing in Iceland has been made popular by the Netflix movie “Under An Arctic Sky” (attach link), where a bunch of crazy dudes decide to chase remote waves for surfing, shot under the northern lights.
Even if it is one of the coldest habited countries in the world, Iceland could compete with the best surf destinations on Earth. Situated in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, the island is in the middle of the way of hurricanes coming from the Mexican golf and going straight to Europe. Hurricane-force winds are so commonplace that the Icelanders build all of their houses to withstand them, not to mentiopn the frequent earthquakes that rock the country on a daily basis.
Strong winds equal a big swell, and locals know the best places to chase it.
You will always find part of the island that is exposed to the swell and gets offshore wind, you then need to know where to jump in.
A lot of visitors come to Iceland dreaming about the perfect wave, but a lot of them end up disappointed. We recommend beginners to reach tour companies for safer practice, but if you are an expert, we will try to give you some tips for you to find the surfer‘s holy grail.
Banner Surfing tours: Bokun. LINK TO ARCTIC SURFER OR VIKING ADVENTURE.
Open to swells from every direction, with numerous breaks that can produce world-class waves, Iceland sometimes seems to spoil us. The time you need to put on the wetsuit is enough for a perfect barrel to disappear. Weather can be harsh and conditions unforgiving. Be prepared and travel accordingly to the conditions.
The surf season is usually best during the winter, when a big depression arrives from East America and hits the Icelandic coastline. The water temperature ranges between 10-15°C (50-60°F) during the summer and 3-5°C (37-40°F) or lower during the winter. Consider that the North of Iceland can sometimes get much colder than the south on the same day, due to exposure to cold/ warm currents.
From June to August is the summer season. Usually much warmer, up to 18°C (65°F), with the midnight sun. Unfortunately, the surf is inconsistent and days with waves big enough are fewer. Check out our fishing article to discover some occupation between the tides.
September to November is the Icelandic Autumn. Days are getting shorter but the water is still warm. It is usually rainy but also windy which means that the wave potential is increased.
Winter, from December to March, is not what comes to mind when talking about a surf trip, even less in Iceland. You would be surprised. The winter season brings the biggest and cleanest waves. Days are short, snowstorms are monthly, and northern lights shine during the night. You will need to prepare your self well to win your bet on this one.
From April and May is our short spring season. Most people consider that Iceland has only two seasons, but in the surf world, you can feel that the swell is slowing down consistently. The water is warming up which makes surfing more accessible, the sun shines, and after a few hours in the water you will be the only one that got tan during your vacation in Iceland.
We recommend you to be well prepared for your surf trip. Thinking about the worst-case scenario is sometimes necessary when you practice an extreme sport like surfing. We recommend our customer that plan to surf to protect themself and purchase travel insurances in case of accidents and injuries.
The cold and limited light is the main issue in the winter season. During the summer, light is no problem but tricky winds and a lack of swell can be. Water temperatures in winter are only just above freezing that is why you need a good wetsuit.
We recommend the hooded wetsuit, 6/5, with boots and glove (8mm is a must). Xcel seems to be the brand chosen by most locals for its quality. Bringing that equipment with you can be annoying. That is why CampEasy will offer you all that you need.
The Icelandic weather forecast integrated into your Easy Guide GPS will permit you to monitor the wind. https://en.vedur.is/
It has been showing that even with 30kt wind, waves can roll cleanly, offshore is the rule.
https://windy.com/ will assist you to follow the swell.
PLEASE PUT THE 2 PICTURES OF VIDIR
Here is the interview with Víðir Björnsson, also known on Instagram as @VidirB. He was born and raised in Iceland. Today, he is introducing us to his work as a photographer and to share with us his experience surfing in Iceland:
Can you share with us your journey as a photographer, from the first time you picked up a camera to now?
I have been filming for the past 15 years. I love hanging out in nature, and filming would give me an excuse to go out. When I was a teenager, I was filming my afternoons with friends skating and having fun in the middle of amazing landscapes. I started to professionalize this hobby around 2017, I really got into it. I decided to study photography and live out of it.
What are your favorite subjects, settings, and situations to photograph?
Extreme sports and adventures! I love working with my friend Runar Pétur (@Runarpetur on Instagram). He is a professional snowboarder and always pushes me to the fullest. Check out our documentary “Volcano lines“:
For shooting, I like to use my Canon EOSR, 24 to 105mm lenses. I also use a Gopro 8 and drone DJI Mavic pro.
How did you get into surfing?
When I was a teenager, I was sea swimming all the time and bodysurfing in waves close to my home town Eyrarbakki. Then, as a skater, I heard about surfing and my next move was to buy a board and a wetsuit to go surf.
How was your first experience surfing in Iceland?
I only had half of a wetsuit, it was old and would not lock the upper part. I got so cold but I kept on catching waves and falling. I got so sick after this but it was worth it.
How will you describe surf in Iceland?
It is a struggle but it can be worth it. You never know what to expect. Two things describe it well, constant paddle and the weather changes.
What are the challenges and what are the benefits?
The cold weather is 100% of a challenge, as much as long drive, even more during the winter. It can be really rewarding, extraordinary landscapes and perfect waves.
Since you spend so much time shooting in the water/snow for work, how do you retain enthusiasm and creativity in your practice?
I would say that for me, it is the contrary. I go to the water ’cause that is where I get the most inspiration. I feel like playing even if I am working. I don‘t always choose my work subjects, but when it is related to my passions, it’s never an issue to invest myself in it.
If you do not have much surf experience, we recommend you numerous beaches without rocks, where you can ride white water all year long. They are easy to spot and perfect to practice your take-off and momentum. We do not recommend to surf on a point break or close to rivers if you are not experienced. Cold water is good for your skin, as they say. Follow basic rules, do not get into rip currents, surf with your comrades. It is really unlikely to encounter a local but they are always good advisers.
In Iceland, you will find reef breaks. The lava rock provides a stiff step where the waves will hit and become a dumping wave, which can drag you under. Be careful, many spots are shallow and full of rocks. The current is sometimes extreme and nobody should go in the water alone.
The Icelandic surf spot is divided into two categories. Easy surfing, and expert surfing.
We only recommend for beginners to use the map of surf beaches, Porlákshöfn or Sandvík which are close to CampEasy.
Click here to see the surf trip, or just pick the places and create your own.
Reykjanes peninsula is a must for any surfers. Exposed to swell from west and south, you will find your El Dorado.