Surfing the Arctic

Words and photos by Coalatree Ambassador Alexander Palumbo. Check out more photos from his trip to Norway and other places on Instagram @alxpalumbo.

Lofoten, Norway. Winter, 2018.

Up until recently this archipelago in the northern part of the country was relatively unknown, but in the last few years photographers and surfers have started to realize its beauty. What helps keep it off the grid for the time being is the simple fact of logistics.

Four hours on the snowy E10 highway and multiple coffee stops later, we turned off towards the coast and eagerly entered a small tunnel that bore its way under a mountain range. As we finally left the darkness we were greeted by one of the best views I could have imagined. A few small buildings clustered in this valley with walls of granite rising behind and on either side of us. And directly in front of us, the ocean, glimmering under the low-lying Arctic sun. We were here. Unstad.

In a town with more sheep than residents, there isn’t much in terms of civilization. For better or for worse, Unstad Arctic Surf Shop is the sole reason non-locals even know about this place. After meeting with the owners Tommy and Marion, we squeezed into our 5/4 hooded wetsuits along with 2mm gloves and booties, grabbed some bikes, and headed down to the beach.

Now onto the surfing itself. Waves are a fickle friend, sometimes showing up when you expect them to and sometimes retreating into the middle of the ocean for an untimely rest. The latter held true for the most part on this day. The thing was; here we were, at the world's northernmost surf shop, so there was no way we were going to miss out. After a dry hair paddle we found ourselves bobbing in the Norwegian Sea doing our best iceberg impressions. There were a couple small sets we were able to play around on but for the most part, the whole experience itself is what held my attention. It was surreal, to be sitting on top of this board, in the dead of winter, north of the arctic circle. After some time, we called it a day and paddled back into shore, trying to catch whatever wave scraps Poseidon threw our way.

Later that night we waited until it was fully dark out with no remnants of fading light in the sky, and rode down to the beach around midnight. It was a crisp 19 degrees - but luckily not so windy. Once we passed the last streetlight in town it was like flipping the lights off in a room while simultaneously flipping the lights on in the sky. The dark sky rose above with a thick band of green slowly moving across the middle. We made our way as far from the ambient light of town as possible and set up our tripods. Here we spent hours in the cold, drinking Norwegian beers that turned to slushies and watching the purple and green lights dance across the sky. Mother Nature may have held out on us in the wave department, but she sure made up for it here.

Shop now

You can use this element to add a quote, content...