In Neskaupstaður (pop. 1,437), fish and, since 2007, aluminum keep the wheels of the local economy turning, and skiing and volleyball keep spirits high in the darkest hours of winter.
Nestled in Norðfjörður in the narrow East Fjords, the mountains block out the winter sun completely for about one month each year—its return is celebrated with a pancake feast known as sólarkaffi (‘sunshine coffee’).
“We needed a sport which fit our community,” says Grímur Magnússon, a teacher and volleyball trainer who helped establish the sport in Neskaupstaður in the early ’70s along with Ólafur Sigurðsson.
The latter brought the technical knowhow after studying at the Sports College in Laugarvatn, South Iceland. The members of Þróttur (the club’s name means ‘power’ or ‘zest’) practiced soccer in the summer and skiing in the winter, along with swimming, but lacked an indoor sport. “We started out with handball and our team proved fairly successful but it didn’t work out because the sports hall was too small. The penalty areas in front of each goal almost met in the middle,” Grímur explains.
Volleyball was already practiced in the town at an amateur level but the time had come to take it up a notch with the formal establishment of Þróttur’s men’s team in 1978. The women’s team was founded a few years later and an active youth program followed.
Volleyball tournaments were held all around the country and with Neskaupstaður being so remote—it’s about the furthest you can drive from the capital to any location in Iceland—this involved extensive traveling, often in extreme winter conditions.
“We bought a bus and if we were lucky it never took us more than 15 hours to reach our destination,” Grímur says, adding that blizzards caused delays sometimes. “The drive once took 26 hours, but we were never late for a match, except for one time when we were heading to Laugarvatn and they dug the road up right in front of us. The schedule had to be reorganized, but we arrived an hour later.”
You can read the remainder of this article in the 2011 winter issue of Iceland Review – IR 04.11. Four times a year the print edition of Iceland Review & Atlantica brings you a wealth of articles on all aspects of life in Iceland including Páll Stefánsson's latest images of the country's majestic landscape. Click here to browse through a selection of pages from the current issue.