Surfing In The Arctic Circle, where the sun never sets.
It was a long time ago that we decided to go and do some exploring in Norway. The surf spots were not well known, and a travel article that referred to a spot called ‘Valhalla’ was all that we really had to go on. Oh, and a friendly Norwegian surfer who where to go and how to get there. So it wasn’t quite exploration, but it was almost exploration. The surf spots had yet to make it into mags, and the social media explosion had yet to happen. We had some English guys with us, a few Australians, an American, that Norwegian chap and myself, and we set out to meet at Heathrow, where so many good adventures start.
Thinking of Norway, of the rugged nature of the country and of the violent, positively vehement storms that the country experiences, I packed a step-up just in case, as well as my standard shooter. We really didn't know what to expect and even of we were going to have food and shops available. We flew off to Oslo and then caught a few more smaller planes until we landed in Lofoten. Then it was a couple of hours driving through the night until we went through a tunnel and found our wooden chalets on the beach. The nearest town, we found out, was Unstadt and they had plenty of shops around, even back then.
Photo: Torbjorn Sandbakk
First day of our trip was flat, so we hit the town and bought vittles and some porn. One of us, who might or not have been me, tried a toasted whale mayonnaise sandwich and declared it ‘salty.’ More and more beer was purchased. The forecast was gloom. There was also a Spaniard with us, as I recall, who loved techno.
There was a left reef right out front that we surfed one small, icy evening. The reef had good shape and ran perfectly, but there was just not enough swell around to make it good. across the bay however, was a long, lined up right-hand point that was lake flat – the fabled Valhalla.*
Guided by our Norwegian friend, we attended a few Norwegian parties, and went to a few clubs. They were rocking, almost like going to a top end club in London, but with way prettier girls. The booze was controlled however, some weird alcohol rules, and it was after much legwork that our guide managed to get us some original moonshine. Called ‘Himkok’ (home-cooked) it was drunk along with copious snus (snuff) usage up the nose.
Photo: Torbjorn Sandbakk
Towards the end of our trip we were on the receiving end of a howling onshore that screamed off the sea and into our valley, causing some weird refraction and contouring effect, that actually saw it gusting a kind of weird offshore on the onshore swell. The swell had come pouring in along with the wind, and with the perfect form that was the Valhalla break, along with the offshore gusts, we saw some very rideable waves out there. We decided to hit it.
To say it was cold would be an understatement like saying that Bill Gates is financially secure. It was straight into 6mm elastic wetsuits, thick booties, gloves and a hoodie with a neck. The paddle out was numbness, sliding our rubberized bodies over the boulders, and eventually paddling out into the weirdly windy lineup.
The best waves were the second ones in the set, and we only really rode the very end section of the point, when the wave became more walled up as it headed towards the beachbreak. We all had a couple, nothing too special except the novelty of surfing in the Arctic Circle.
Photo: Emil Sollie/Red Bull Content Pool
As a surf trip it provided a new culture and a landscape that was very far removed from surfing back then. We visited the remains of an original Old Norse Longship that had been transformed into a wedding venue and restaurant. It was an incredible experience, to actually comprehend just how big their boats were, and to read a little about their savage history.
Surfers from Norway, and those that visit places like Norway are hardcore. To understand the need to go surfing when the weather is freezing, literally, and you’re going to be in the risk area for hypothermia and muscular injuries from the extreme cold, is the understand the addiction of surfing. Norwegian non-surfers from this beautiful valley stared at us like we just weren’t right as we walked down through frozen winter slush to go for a quick paddle.
These days Norway has a thriving surf culture, the same place that we visited has held a number of surf contests, and wetsuit technology has improved even more. Pro surfers visit often, and the surf spots have been pioneered. It’s not that much of an escapade as it was back then, but Norway has a long coastline, and the Fjords, so no doubt there are more adventures to be had there in the land of the Vikings.
Valhalla (pronounced “val-HALL-uh”; Old Norse Valhöll, “the hall of the fallen”) is the hall where the god Odin houses the dead whom he deems worthy of dwelling with him. This is not a reward for moral behavior or anything of the sort, however; most of those to whom he grants access to Valhalla are distinguished warriors whom he collects for the perfectly selfish purpose of having them come to his aid in his foredoomed struggle against the wolf Fenrir during Ragnarok.