Surfing in Lofoten

There is something very unsettling about packing, unpacking and repacking your camera gear at 2am on a November morning in Bristol. Perhaps because I’d never taken that much camera gear abroad before, or more likely because I was about to jump in two planes, a ferry and a car with three guys I didn’t know, to throw ourselves into the colder side of the North Sea.

This trip came about after I signed up for a surf photography workshop with world-renowned photographer Tim Nunn. Alas, through injury Tim couldn’t make it so it ended up with myself (taking snaps) Jamie Gatley, Nick Rees and Adam Parsons (in the snaps). Luckily it wasn’t long before we realised we shared common interests including facial hair, taxidermy and couscous...

Anyway, back to the story. We arrived at our accommodation - Unstad Arctic Surf 17 hours after leaving Bristol and we couldn’t have been more happy. We had our own awesome cabin with plenty of room (it slept 10) to spread out our gear and make ourselves at home.

surfer standing on big pebbles cold sea

Surfing in Unstad
Unstad has a SW through to NW facing beach break, and two rocky point breaks - one on the North and the other on the South side making Unstad the most consistent break in the Island chain that makes up Lofoten.

Surfing was first discovered here in the early 60’s. The Beach Boys were topping the charts, and the only outline of a surfboard they could find was the cover of the album ‘Surfin’ Safari.’  So naturally, Unstad locals made themselves surfboards using the outline found on the cover!

It wasn’t until the 90’s when local viking Kristian Breivak rediscovered the bay. At this time, there were only a few surfers in Norway and they were all located around the Stavanger area . Kristian moved to Stavanger but continued to tell people about the fantastic waves north of the Arctic Circle. He ended up gathering a small crew and heading up to see what all the fuss was about…. They scored, BIG time, and put Unstad back on the map.

The Adventure
After a good kip in the cabin we woke up to a strong SW swell direction. We headed down to the North side of the beach and the guys surfed the right hander while I photographed from the rocks above. It was a strong offshore wind gusting 30-40mph, creating powerful head-and-a-half monsters for a good 3 hours. They surfed alone in a bay the size of Croyde with just a seal and some cormorants for company.

I went for a swim in the crystal clear, deep blue water with my camera one day, bobbing around, surrounded by the shadows of mountains coming out of the water in biblical proportions and wildlife that I only thought existed in Jurassic Park. Taking pictures in such a beautiful environment while the guys slid towards me in states of euphoria was incredible. That landscape was nothing like any other place I’ve been before, and in that moment I definitely felt some kind of connection to a higher power.

We got out after a few hours, had some food then went back in at the South of the beach to surf the point. The wind was wild! I’ve never seen anything like it! The guys couldn’t see anything on take-off because of spray while I shot from the boot of the hire car, praying it didn’t roll! The highlight was when Mee-Mee, a French instructor at the surf camp, paddled out past the guys (who had enough rubber on to survive a Nuclear attack) on a foamy, no hood or gloves and completely cleaned up!

After a few good days in the bay, we decided to go for a hike. I say hike, but we soon found ourselves traversing a small mountain. I’ll be honest here, we’re not mountaineers in the slightest. Our mountain walking gets as far as wearing North Face and sometimes going to climbing walls. Nine kilometers and 1000ft later we made it… apart from not being able to get a latte at the summit, I was chuffed! Though we didn’t have the time or energy left for a surf when we eventually made it back down…

Later that evening a friend from Bristol rocked up to our lodge (as you do, passing by the Arctic sea) and joined us for dinner. We had our minds blown catching a glimmer of the Northern Lights.

When it came to our last day, Mee-Mee took us to Kvalvika where the surf film ‘North Of The Sun‘ was shot. We hiked in, surfed, had a bonfire, hiked out, saw more Northern Lights, before arriving back at the surf lodge where the camp owner and local shredder Tommy had prepared a traditional Norwegian hot-tub. The perfect ending to an incredible trip.

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