A Trip to the Arctic Circle in Storm Season

Photos by Jess Bonde / Words by Jess Bonde and  Nick Holmgren

The trip began on the edge of the Arctic Circle in northern Norway.

Our team was 10 strong, consisting of professional surfers, windsurfers, kitesurfers, downhill longboarders, paragliders, a film crew, and yours truly as the photographer. Our plan was to chase waves, wind, summit peaks and everything in between. We had 30 days to explore the Norwegian coastline all the way up to the most northern point of Europe. We decided we would commence the trip in the middle of the stormy season, ensuring we were all beyond our comfort zone for the majority of the trip.

When thinking about surf destinations, Norway is probably not the first to come to mind. It’s more famous for its beautiful women, rich oil reserves and its incredible mountains than pumping surf. But during autumn and winter, the coast of Norway is regularly bombarded by low-pressure systems moving up between Iceland and Great Britain. When the conditions are right it can create some world class surf. Lofoten, an island chain in the north-west of Norway, is the most famous surf area, with incredible mountains and fjords surrounding different styles of point breaks and beach break setups.

We started our trip in Lofoten and we were immediately greeted by a clean 4-6 foot swell from the south-west. For four days straight, we shared amazing waves amongst the fjords. We camped in Unstad Bay, that has this incredible setup with a left and right point break running on both sides of the bay and a friendly beach break in the middle for when the surf is smaller. So at the tail end of the swell, almost all the crew got to enjoy some waves. I guess what really intrigues me about Norway is the fact that you have to really do your homework. There are more known spots like Unstad that are easily accessible with guaranteed waves, but there is so much more out there. With a bit of basic surf forecasting knowledge and time spent on Google Earth, you can really find some incredible setups. As for our trip, we really only scratched the surface and I know that right now there are waves going unridden, just waiting to be discovered.

About every second night we would see some Aurora activity, some nights stronger than others but if there was a clear sky you had a pretty good chance to see some.
When you first see it, it is like a weird faint cloud that doesn’t look right, but as the intensity increases it becomes vibrant green and starts to dance across the sky. One night near the northern tip of Norway we were camped by a lake and the activity was insane! All ten of us didn’t know what to do with ourselves; we howled, laughed, danced, cried, shook, and hugged, as our minds were just completely blown as it was like the universe was exploding with green, yellow and red colours splattered all over the sky. That intensity lasted about 30 minutes and was better than any fireworks show you could ever dream of.

The constant wind and rain meant drying things was almost impossible. The guys in the water had to put on frost coated wetsuits, and camping in tents meant we didn’t really have anywhere to hide so it was just a matter of wearing all the layers we had, staying as dry as possible, trying to find a wind break, and praying for some sunshine. The best survival tip? Take a fishing rod and you’ll never go hungry.

There were a couple of surf spots we had to hike our gear into. One spot we borrowed a bike off a local, found a wheel-barrow and attempted to shiftily make it into a trailer. Fair to say it was a terrible idea and a complete hazard to be the rider at the helm. It was always a mission getting the surfing gear and all the film gear to the location but that’s what we were out there for so we sucked it up and hiked it in. People got tired and a little testy at times but when the waves were worth the hike, the stoke levels soon overcame the exhaustion.

Top tips for travelling in Norway: go during Northern Lights season, spend as much time in the Arctic Circle as you can, and don’t pay for camping, you can legally camp anywhere for free in Norway thanks to the right to roam law, known as “allemannsretten”.

Upon reaching the most northern tip of Europe, Nordkapp, we stepped out of the cars and figured it was quite an achievement. Standing alone looking out to sea was one man who we started chatting to. He had just completed a six-month walk from Germany… he walked the whole way from Germany to the most northern point of Europe! We started chatting about where we were camping for the night and he said he was planning on staying in the same area. We offered him a ride in the car but he laughed and politely declined.

Check out more of Jess’ travels on his Instagram @j_bonde or on his website jbonde.com

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