THE ICEMAN COMETH
Leon Glatzer experimenting with how well he can surf in all the rubber when he's used to surfing in just boardies.
We thought we'd find out. Three weeks of daily updates over the phone and forecasting resulted in some of the best conditions this stretch of land can produce.
The Lofoten Islands in the north of Norway are where many storms are created, meaning you are just as likely to be stuck inside your cabin as you are to score a perfect swell. The winds, coupled with the fact that you only have a couple of hours of daylight in the middle of winter make it almost impossible to score great waves in a given period of time. Patience, my friend, is your best buddy here. And coffee - industrial amounts of coffee.
We were watching this a bit out of the ordinary swell move in along with some favourable winds and weather for more than a week before finally making the call, and with any low period swells we knew that a tiny change in the weather
'CAN A BOARD SHORTS BORN AND RAISED SURFER LIKE LEON GLATZER GO SKY HIGH FULLY COVERED IN MORE THAN SIX MILLIMETRES OF RUBBER?'
'LAUNCHING MASSIVE AIRS AND DOING RADICAL MANOEUVRES IN THE TROPICS IS ONE THING - DOING IT IN THE ARCTIC CIRCLE IS SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.'
would cause it to miss the islands or make it unsurfable. But we were lucky, or talented ... whatever you want to call it. For Leon, launching massive airs and doing radical manoeuvres in the tropics is one thing - doing it in the Arctic Circle is something completely different. You have to adapt to the situation and learn as you go, like realising that 8 millimetres of rubber makes it impossible to feel your feet on the board. So much for muscle memory.
It took Leon only a couple of waves before he readjusted his foot placement and started landing moves. What seemed to be a tricky section quickly turned into a ramp to launch himself into a silhouette against the snow covered mountains. For three days straight we were swimming and surfing a perfect left hander at the now somewhat famous Unstad Beach with no one else in our part of the bay. These waters have become rather crowded the last couple of years, but there’s a lack of great talent around, so the lineups clear up once the waves go overhead. When you live in these parts of the world you get used to being cold and in a sort of blissful pain. You get used to having to change out of your wetsuit in gale force winds and blizzards and to handle condensation and icy front ports on your housing. What is a daily routine for us is viewed upon as pure magic by visitors, like bringing a thermos of hot water for the cold suits, avoiding duckdives like the plague, or changing in and out of the suit in a matter of seconds. “He got it all dialled in. He’s a local.” was thrown around a lot the first day by the others. No need to be colder than you need to be. It’ll drain you.
Louis, our videographer, who swam for two hours in overhead freezing conditions in the morning, quickly realised the harsh realities of this place and had to shoot the second session of the day from land because of fatigue. Not even the biggest portion of whale stew in the world could’ve changed that. Your body starts pulling out all of the blood of your fingers and toes to keep your vital organs warm when you swim in
'THE LOFOTEN ISLANDS IN THE NORTH OF NORWAY ARE WHERE MANY STORMS ARE CREATED, MEANING YOU ARE JUST AS LIKELY TO BE STUCK INSIDE YOUR CABIN AS YOU ARE TO SCORE A PERFECT SWELL.'
these temperatures, and eventually your body starts shutting down certain functions, making it hard to speak, think straight or even just feel the cold. It only takes an hour and a half before you start having to use both hands to fire the small shutter button, or can’t feel your feet, because you neither have blood, strength nor any tactile feel left in your fingers and toes.
For Leon, a Costa Rican grown surfer with German roots, going to the Lofoten Islands started out with a “I could see myself living here” in the car to the surf, to a “not a chance in the world” when he got in the water, and ended with a “maybe have a cabin or a type of getaway here” after having experienced the surf. These islands are a magnet for creative souls, and the local
'WHAT STARTED WITH WE’LL TAKE WHAT WE GET, TURNED OUT TO BE SOMETHING OF A VIKING FAIRYTALE'
communities are a mix of the local fishermen, artists, thrill seekers and wanderers.
Seeing it all come together and the stoke on Leon’s face when he paddled around in the freezing waters is what it’s all about. A trip that started out with a “we’ll take whatever we get” mentality turned out to be something pulled out of a Viking fairytale, and creating moments and content hardly ever seen from these parts of the world. Glassy, clean and good size conditions are rare up here, not to mention the occasionally blue skies that we were blessed with for three days straight. Looking back at the images and moments produced it’s not too hard to explain to people why we push ourselves out here. We just love it...
The sun is a rare thing in the Lofoten islands. When it does show itself it's oh-sospectacular.