Feature of the Week: Surfing the North Atlantic

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Feature of the Week: Surfing the North Atlantic

Surfing the swell near the town of Thórlákshöfn in southwest Iceland. Iceland is an endless source of adventure as Vanessa Beucher discovered with a few passionate people who practice surfing in the tough conditions that come with the ice-cold waves of the North Atlantic.

Published in the No. 2 2011 April-May issue of Atlantica. Text and photos by Vanessa Beucher.

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Iceland, as the name clearly implies, is the land of ice, of cold, and instantly evokes snow, mountains and possibilities for skiing and snowboarding of which there are plenty. But the island, with its favorable position in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, is also a secret den of numerous spots ideal for surfing with constant swells all year round.

There are still only a few locals who dare venture into these cold waters. You need a thick wetsuit, boots, gloves and a helmet almost the whole time. But when I visit the spring reserves some beautiful, shiny surprises. The cold Irminger Current mingled with dominant westerly winds lends the Western and Southwestern peninsulas the best swells of the country. Still, North Iceland’s waters are scattered with numerous more or less secret spots for those who do not hesitate driving a few dozen kilometers without being totally sure of the reward of the session ahead.

A quick phone call from my friend Ingó Olsen and I am on my way to Thorlákshöfn on the Southern coast, a small fishing town about one hour away from Reykjavík. A Southwest swell and a slight offshore wind give birth to a beautiful surf right at the tip of the lighthouse. There is still no risk of overpopulation at the peak; there are only four or five friends surfing there this morning. They are soon joined by two or three other people. Unsurprisingly, they all know each other. The series of waves unfolds quietly for about two hours; there is a solid one and a half to two meters. In the background, one can hardly make out the volcanoes and glaciers of the Southern coast.

You can read the remainder of this article for free in the No. 2 2011 April-May issue of Atlantica, a sister publication of Iceland Review.