Snow pelted the windshield faster than the wipers could clear it from view. It was 7pm in the Arctic but the sky had turned pitch black when the sun set 3 hours prior. Inside our truck we still donned down coats and gloves, a wardrobe that stays consistent in this environment. Outside, our car inched forward on snow tires that we trusted to grip the icy road. Seven hours of driving in darkness had taken its toll but we were determined to make it up to Northern Iceland where a colder remote territory offered unknown adventure.
It was the winter of 2013, during some of the darkest days of the year. Surrounded by hundreds of miles of ocean in any direction, the country of Iceland is a desolate place. It adds to the emptiness when the sun is out for only 4 or 5 hours a day. This was my 12th time to Iceland, this time with the clothing brand Roark. Surfers Nate Zoller and Raph Bruhwiler were along for the ride and stoked at the opportunity to score waves all to themselves even if they might numb their limbs in the process. The land of fire and ice draws you in with its beauty but you soon realize nothing is given. There’s no surf report or local surf knowledge and the weather is impossible to read. We spent the first half of our trip chasing good weather only to get skunked on waves. Adversity comes in many forms whether it’s hours of driving to reach a windy beach break or accidentally pumping unleaded gas in a diesel car and having to siphon it In the winter you’re guaranteed to get your car stuck in snow unless you’re a local. We also drove some of the sketchiest and iciest roads I’ve ever been on.
Without finding any surf up north we shifted gears the second half of our trip and started chasing waves rather than weather. The guys had scored a couple little surf sessions but weather or daylight usually chased everyone out of the water. On the final day of the trip we retreated towards the airport, our final drive of the trip on Ring Road (Iceland’s Highway 1). With our eyes on the ocean we spied some white water over a ridge and pulled over to check the surf. Nothing was in sight other than a lone cabin, snowy headlands, and a perfect slab that was dumping barrels. Raph and Nate ripped wetsuits out of their luggage faster than they were opening Christmas presents. Frozen board bag zippers required some thawing and snowy boards needed waxing. The guys trekked to the beach for an icy slab session just hours before we headed back to the states. The slab produced endless tubes and one surfer paddled out as the other got tubed only to switch positions on the next set. It was an epic sendoff and a reminder of fickle but rewarding nature of this desolate country.
See the rest of Burkard’s photos in the Image Gallery below: