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Extreme sports: Meet the surfers who brave Arctic waters to pursue their passion

Hundreds of extreme sports enthusiasts endure sub-zero temperatures and travel to the Arctic circle in northern Norway each year to surf in freezing conditions.

travel Updated: Mar 16, 2018 10:43 IST
Myrtille Heissat, 26, a surf instructor from France, in Unstad, northern Norway.
Myrtille Heissat, 26, a surf instructor from France, in Unstad, northern Norway.(AFP)

Hundreds of extreme sports enthusiasts brave sub-zero temperatures and travel to the Arctic circle in northern Norway each year to surf in freezing conditions. The stunning snow-covered beaches of the Lofoten islands, glowing green under the spectacular Northern Lights in deep winter, are intensely cold though — the outside air temperature can hit a chilly minus 15 Celsius (5 Fahrenheit) or even lower.

Here some surfers explain why they pull on their thick wetsuits, hats and gloves to practise their passion in these crystal clear but icy waters:

Ellen Holgersen, 32, veterinarian, in Svolvaer, northern Norway. (AFP)

Just ‘freaking cold’

Ellen Holgersen, 32, veterinarian: “Living here in Lofoten has been a dream for a long time because it combines my passion for surfing and the mountains. I prefer the cold water surf, that’s why I moved here. I tried living in places where you can surf just outside your doorstep but it was like going to the gym for me, a lot of people and too simple. Here it’s more of an expedition because of the cold. I love the feeling that you come up from the ocean and you’re just freaking cold. You have to change really quickly and then put your feet in a bowl of hot water, in front of the fireplace.”

‘Surfing is life’

Lisa Blom, 38, hotel manager: “Surfing is life. It’s a must. It’s the same for me as breathing, eating, sleeping, being with my family. There are quality waves here, they’re consistent. When you’re not surfing there are heaps of other things you can do, hike, ski, kayak, stand-up paddle, fish... Lofoten is like a big playground for grownups. Winter surfing is best because the waves are usually bigger but during the summertime (when the light never goes out), the social scene is fantastic, hanging out on the beach and camping.”

Eddie Siswanto, a 30-year-old handyman from Bali, in Unstad, northern Norway. (AFP)

The best waves

Inge Weggen, 32, film-maker: “Surfing is freedom, it’s disconnecting from everyday life and just being in that place in that moment, it happens just there and then. The surroundings here in Lofoten, the mountains, make the whole experience so much bigger because you can have an eagle flying over you and you can look up at the mountains and you take that into that moment when you’re surfing. Spring is my favourite time to surf, we get more light, the days are longer and it is nice with the sun. I prefer the colder season because that’s when you have the best waves.”

Extreme meditation

Ole Kristian Fjelltun-Larsen, 34, coffee shop B&B owner: “The weather doesn’t bother me that much. When it’s warm, it’s very different. Winter is more challenging, it’s like an extreme form of meditation, with an extreme contact with nature. In winter, you get very tired physically, the body uses a lot of energy to keep warm, but your head gets really relaxed, you forget about stuff, you calm down and big problems become smaller problems. The feeling when you’re done is really good.”

Cold and wet wetsuits

Myrtille Heissat, 26, surf instructor: “Cold is better, I love the feeling of putting my wetsuit on, in spots where there is nobody out, it’s more peaceful than summer and warm spots like Costa Rica, where you can surf three times a day or more but there are so many people in the water that it is not relaxing. Here most of us surf once a day only because your wetsuit is still wet and cold, have you tried to put back a cold and wet wetsuit by - 8°C?”

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