Last year photographer Chris Burkard had quite the experience in Norway. So special in fact, that he assembled a new collection of cold-water enthusiasts to make the trek back to the Scandinavian Peninsula a few weeks ago. Simply casting your eyes over these images is enough to chill your bones and have you pouring whiskey into your Weatbix. In a harsh environment such as this, you need to be ready for anything. However none of the guys expected this type of arctic barrage. Check out the images and essay Chris compiled for Corona Extra Journeys.
Grey and white were the only colours I could see. Sitting at the ocean’s edge, the sound of waves could be heard, but nothing was in sight. Even if there happened to be people there, the storm’s visibility was no more than 50 feet. The world around me was condensed into what was visible. Grey and white, the sounds of wind and the sounds of the ocean. Nothing else existed beyond this. My eyes peered out a small opening in my face mask and hoodie. Somehow every part of my body was still cold. My camera felt like I was holding a large piece of ice and as my eyes followed the mountainside next to me, my mind wandered off. In that moment, time seemed detached; a Viking ship could have landed in front of me and I would have not been surprised. Just 30 hours ago I sat in the commotion of LAX and now I stood in one of the simplest spaces I had ever seen. It was a feeling of solitude in a place where the voices inside of you seem to speak the loudest. Right then my voice began yelling, “Why in the world did you come back?”
The rattling of the plane against the storm was the only sound louder than my heartbeat. My hands gripped the armrests tighter than I have held anything. I looked at the stewardess for some sort of reassurance that everything was fine, but her eyes were closed and she had not unbuckled out of her seat since we first hit the turbulence 40 minutes ago. As we approached the runway, it became even more apparent that our plane was essentially flying sideways as the wind torqued against us. Just before touchdown, I closed my eyes and what followed was a series of thuds and screeches then stillness only for a moment. I opened my eyes to the stewardess and overhead announcements acting as if it had just been another routine flight. My shaking left hand told me differently. I looked across the aisle to see surfers Chad Koenig, Pat Millin and Brett Barley wide-eyed and jacked on adrenaline. Just a few hours before I had told them they had to be ready for anything upon landing because storms form and pass in a matter of a few hours in Norway.
We began our drive from the airport to the ocean and this storm seemed to only build. As we arrived at the beach, the waves were hardly visible and as we opened our doors, the chill of the wind, hail and snow spread up our bodies. It felt like our core temperature dropped 20 degrees in a matter of seconds. There was definitely a few stares back and forth questioning whether anyone was going to actually try to surf. The 30 hours of travel had them antsy for a surf so it was decided they would paddle out into the blizzard. They suited up and began the walk through knee-deep snow and rocks towards the ocean’s edge. I exposed my camera for brief moments to grab an image, but anything longer than a few seconds and the camera was pelted with thick snowflakes. I had told the guys mid-flight that they had to be ready for any type of weather when we landed, but honestly I did not expect this strong of a storm to be sweeping through. The session only lasted about 40 minutes as the guys could barely drop into waves with the snow and hail blowing against their faces. They said it was impossible to even open their eyes on some of the waves and were essentially surfing blind. Feeling somewhat defeated but alive they made their way back to the van to defrost.
I looked out from where we sat. White and grey. Just moments ago I questioned my return to this land of unpredictable pain. We all sat pressed against the warm car vents shaking and I realised this is exactly why I love returning to the arctic. It is a constant battle against the elements. Every hour of prep can be flipped upside down in a matter of minutes and this is where true stories begin to form. I think to gain anything worthwhile in life, a bit of suffering must accompany the process, and no way is a better illustration of that than searching for surf in the arctic.
For the full journey head to CORONA JOURNEY #12: NORWAY BY CHRIS BURKARD