Welcome to Walkabout 4
by Dane Faurschou
Surfing in Iceland was on my bucket list, but it was something that I never thought might become a reality. But as fate would have it I managed to jump in on a last minute trip with two good friends. It is pretty surreal experiencing something in person that you’ve only ever seen in magazines or read about in books, let alone imagined. Thus began the search for waves in Iceland…
It was the middle of winter, between -2*C and -10*C (28*F and 14*F) during the day, the wind was gusting consistently at over 130kms / 81 miles an hour and it was snowing. We didn’t really have any idea where to start. We were just looking at maps for places that might be protected by the wind. Good waves were pretty high on our wish list, but our surroundings were so incredible that just exploring them was almost enough of an adventure for surfing to take a back seat. However we managed to stay goal orientated and eventually found something on the map that looked like it might have wave potential.
We drove as far as we could before the road ended on a farm. We got out and asked the farmer if it was possible for us to walk through his property to get to the spot. He laughed at us and called us crazy for wanting to surf in such extreme conditions but said it was completely fine.
We walked for about 40 minutes, maybe a little more, through the fields as snow fell and we talked about how there was probably not going to be a single wave when we finally got there. At one point during the walk we were surrounded by Icelandic horses, the farmer had warned us that they can be a little aggressive and to keep our distance so we did our best but they were so amazing to look at that it was pretty hard.
Eventually we got to the crest of the hill and that’s when we saw our first wave. This was the part where it read like something out of a surf magazine that never happens to normal people. As we caught our first glimpse of the beach one wave came through, barrelled perfectly down the line and ended. We all started yelling and began running faster towards the beach. We said it had to be an anomaly and probably wouldn’t happen again but then a second wave came barreling through, a third and then a fourth. We realised it was pumping.
Putting on 6 mils of rubber wetsuit, booties, gloves and a hood in the ice and snow is the slowest process in the world. It seems sooo much worse when you are in a rush but we managed to get into our gear and paddle out.
It is hard to explain this part as I never would have really believed it if I did not feel it for myself, but even with all that gear on it is still the coldest thing you could ever imagine. Duck diving was the worst part. One or two waves were fine but after that you started to get the most intense brain freeze that none of us had ever experienced before, wave after wave after wave. The cold creeps through into every single part of your body. Everything begins to ache. It starts at your fingers and toes and then slowly makes its way into your arms and legs, eventually reaching into your chest. It was a cold that penetrated so deep that after about 90 minutes I had to get out of the water because all I could think about was the amount of pain I was in, and how I was 100% sure I had frost bite on my toes and they would be black.
But before I paddled in I managed to just slow my self down, take a few deep breaths and look around. We were sitting in the middle of the ocean surrounded by nothing but snow covered mountains and cliffs. The sand and water were dark and the rest of the world that we could see was completely white. Snow was falling on the water around us and white flakes fell on our black suits.
There was so much raw rugged beauty that it was hard not to question our existence. This coupled with the fact that the elements we had chosen to surround ourselves with, were slowly trying to kill us made us all feel pretty insignificant.
It feels strange to say this but after experiences like that I always feel closer and more connected to the planet. It’s as if I’ve just shared something special with the Earth, exposing a new side of itself to me and allowing me the opportunity to get to know it just a little bit better.
- by Dane Faurschou :)