Aussie expat Wes Schaftenaar talks us through a Norway river surfing experience.
Wes Schaftenaar is an Australian surfer currently living in Oslo, Norway. Wes was a talented surfer who grew up on the Victorian surf coast and worked for Rip Curl in Victoria first as a team manager before moving into marketing. A decade or so ago he moved to France to take up the role as Rip Curl’s European Marketing Manager and now does event management, helping produce many of the big QS events held on the continent.
When we saw Wes had dropped some intriguing shots of him river surfing, we thought we’d investigate. With novelty and river waves all the rage, as evidenced by Dylan Graves popular Weird Waves series, Wes talked through his experience of river surfing in Norway.
Tracks: Hey Wes, first up can you tell us where the pics were taken?
Wes: The river is about an hour’s drive from Oslo. You park up and walk down a dirt trail for about half a kay through beautiful Norwegian forest and go over a hill and then there is a wave. We just hang on the rocks and bring a barbecue. We were making hot dogs and had a couple of cold beers. It’s a full Norwegian camping experience.
An obvious question; how cold is it?
It’s summer so the air temp was pretty nice, around 20, but the water would be 7 or 8 degrees, so there’s a few ice cream headaches involved.
Do many people surf it?
I know there’s been a few Aussie expats who have surfed it over the years. There’s probably a dozen guys on to it with the Scandos like Seb Kjellström and legendary snowboarder Terje Håkonsen leading the charge.
Does it break very often?
No, it only breaks for less than a week a year and usually when the snow melt is at its peak. You can only ride it when the water level is half-a-metre or so above the normal levels and it breaks best at shoulder high. If the level is above that then if there is too much water and it turns into a big fat shoulder. Plus massive 10 metre by 30 cm logs can then come down the river which isn’t much fun.
What happens when you come off?
You usually you just go about 100 metres down the river and veer to the bank and walk back. However on the bigger flows guys have had to swim in the rapids for almost a kilometre and that can be pretty sketchy trying to get on the river bank
How do the locals take it?
Well, there’s a walking trail nearby and so old people were stopping and freaking out what we were doing. Then a load of kids who had never seen anyone surf before came past and they were so interested and frothing. Its pretty classic.
Does it barrel?
It doesn’t really barrel, it’s just a leg burner where you can do snaps. Even after a wave you can be exhausted. The other day my Swedish mate Seb rode a wave for five minutes, which is more actual stand up surfing than you would do in a three hour surf in the ocean, so you really feel it.
And how’s it compare to a day of great waves?
Look you leave feeling pretty good. We don’t get to surf a whole lot up here and so for a week of the year it’s a great fun, all be it novelty, experience.