ICE­LAND

Carve - - CONTENTS - WORDS BY CONOR MAGUIRE

Conor Maguire swaps the cold con­fines of Ire­land for the one let­ter dif­fer­ent Ice­land. Go­ing be­yond the wall looks fun eh?

Ihad been dream­ing of roam­ing in be­tween Ice­land’s im­pos­ing fjord’s for years. I felt very lucky and priv­i­leged to have been asked to go there for a Reef project on very short no­tice by my won­der­ful team man­ager, Paolo. About a week after the in­vi­ta­tion I was hap­pily board­ing a plane in wet and windy Ire­land bound for Ice­land two hours later.

I was ex­pect­ing to be met with sub-zero tem­per­a­tures and snow bliz­zards the mo­ment I left the air­port. In­stead I was greeted by a fa­mil­iar North At­lantic howl and per­sis­tent driz­zle as I

walked out the re­volv­ing doors. It seemed as though I was en­ter­ing a part of Ire­land I hadn’t seen be­fore.

This lit­tle no­madic is­land on top of the world had been very high on my check­list for as long as I can re­mem­ber. I never ex­pected to feel so at home the mo­ment I ar­rived.

As I walked out of the air­port two very friendly Nova Sco­tians were wait­ing pa­tiently for me. Lo­gan Landry and Mike Brom­ley were grin­ning ear to ear as they po­litely helped me with my bags. We had only met vir­tu­ally pre­vi­ous to the trip. After a few min­utes with the boys it was easy to see why Cana­di­ans, and es­pe­cially Nova Sco­tians, have such a good rep­u­ta­tion. They had both been to Ice­land quite a num­ber of times. Lo­gan con­sid­ers it a sec­ond home hav­ing spent a few weeks there for eight con­sec­u­tive years. Mike had been there the year pre­vi­ous film­ing his highly an­tic­i­pated film ‘Per­ilous Sea’.

The pair were clearly very com­fort­able in the area and that rubbed off on me. The lads chucked my stuff in a van which would be­come our sec­ond base for the trip. We drove fur­ther and fur­ther out­side the city un­til we were bounc­ing down gravel lanes. Off in the dis­tance I could see a pic­turesque wooden church on a hill with a dis­tinc­tively Ice­landic moun­tain in the back­drop, al­beit with­out the char­ac­ter­is­tic dust­ing of snow. We

kept driv­ing. I thought, “we must be get­ting close. We’re quite a ways away from the ocean out here.” The moun­tains got big­ger and the city got smaller. Lo­gan took a turn up a tight drive­way which seemed to be lead­ing to the colour­ful

THE MOUN­TAINS GOT BIG­GER AND THE CITY GOT SMALLER

church on the hill. It turns out we were stay­ing in a beau­ti­ful wooden cabin right un­der­neath God’s house. We were com­pletely in the mid­dle of nowhere, but it was per­fect. We even had a prom­ise of fun waves the next day. The only thing that could have made it bet­ter was if it snowed.

I woke the next day to two new cabin in­hab­i­tants. An­nouck, Canada’s Reef man­ager and Shan­non Brown, Ozzy rip­per and ex­pat. An­nouck is like the mum we all miss when we’re away. She has all your needs met be­fore you need them. Shan­non is a man full of wis­dom and more than happy to share it with who­ever is smart enough to lis­ten. The five of us got on like a house on fire from day one. On our long drive to the ocean from our new recluse my eyes were glued to the van win­dows. Ice­land is a di­a­mond sculpted by the re­lent­less forces of na­ture. It is what I imag­ine Ire­land was like many years ago when glaciers still crept through val­leys, carv­ing beau­ti­ful pieces of art as they went. While mak­ing our way through never end­ing val­leys with jagged, un­planned peaks jolt­ing out of ev­ery­where we passed herds of ma­jes­tic wild horses, cen­turies old turf houses and plung­ing wa­ter­falls wait­ing to be lit up by the morn­ing sun.

I had been so im­mersed in what was sur­round­ing our van that I had com­pletely for­got­ten about the surf. We rocked up to a per­fect lit­tle right hand point break with no­body around.

We got in­cred­i­bly ex­cited and jumped out of the van only to re­alise it was ab­so­lutely freez­ing! We quickly learned that a three foot Ice­landic point break looks a lot more invit­ing from be­hind the win­dows of a warm van. We awk­wardly wrig­gled into our suits in the pleas­ant warmth and ran down to the sea. I sat float­ing out the back with a huge grin on my face as I looked back at the un­even land­scape. The sun had risen just about as

high as it would for the rest of the short day. It would re­main there shed­ding a mys­ti­cal golden hue on the land from gaps in the clouds. I couldn’t have been more con­tent. I had trav­elled to Ice­land keen to see it’s in­cred­i­ble sur­round­ings. To be sit­ting in the ocean surf­ing fun waves with a few friends was the ic­ing on the cake. After two long surfs we were ex­hausted and ready for din­ner. We drove back through the val­ley ad­mir­ing low light bounce from pin­na­cle to pin­na­cle, com­pletely sat­is­fied.

Our cabin had no wifi, so after din­ner we ac­tu­ally had to con­verse and get to know each other. Shan­non is an ex­pert card player and brought a deck with him. He taught us a few games and got our heads spin­ning. I thought bring­ing a bot­tle of Bush­mills to make hot whiskeys would be es­sen­tial on a trip to Ice­land. This also got our heads spin­ning. I was flab­ber­gasted to hear no­body knew of the de­li­cious bev­er­age that is the cure to all. After their first sip, ev­ery­body was hooked. It was the drink of choice for the rest of the trip. Or at least un­til the bot­tle ran dry. It turns out a card game fu­elled by whiskey can get quite com­pet­i­tive. Shan­non was eas­ily wip­ing the floor with us, while Lo­gan and I were in a heated bat­tle for sec­ond on a few oc­ca­sions. The deck was wisely put away as we made our way to bed.

WE ROCKED UP TO A PER­FECT LIT­TLE RIGHT HAND POINT BREAK WITH NO­BODY AROUND

We woke well be­fore dawn to white flakes fall­ing from the night sky. Inches of the white stuff was packed tightly against our front door. In the pitch black, we jumped in the van and made our way to­wards the ocean once again. The val­leys had been trans­formed and looked com­pletely dif­fer­ent from the morn­ing be­fore. As dawn creeped in, the moon set giv­ing off the last of its sil­ver glow turn­ing the val­ley into a luna-like won­der­land. The sea was con­sid­er­ably stormier. The swell had some mighty punch be­hind it. We had a brief but fun surf and made our way back to base to make a plan. Lo­gan is a good friend of

lo­cal surfer Hei­dar Logi who is Ice­land’s first pro­fes­sional surfer. They de­cided that a mis­sion just about as far North as you can go in Ice­land would be the per­fect place to hide from the storm and get fun waves. An eight hour drive north to take us a few de­grees south of the Arc­tic Cir­cle seemed like a fan­tas­tic idea.

We com­menced our jour­ney the fol­low­ing morn­ing. A few hours in and we got hit by the mother of all snow storms whilst in the mid­dle of ab­so­lutely nowhere. The snow was fall­ing so thick and fast we didn’t even have the op­tion of ap­pre­ci­at­ing what were

un­doubt­edly amaz­ing sur­round­ings. As night fell, Lo­gan de­cided to share that just up ahead were sheer cliffs with un­guarded roads. Bliss­ful ig­no­rance of the treach­ery that lay be­low would have saved us a few un­easy hours. Watch­ing the thick snow flakes fall in front of the full beams was hyp­no­tis­ing and al­most put us in a trance like state. Eight hours of driv­ing slowly turned into eleven. With a syn­chro­nised sigh of re­lief, we saw the

glow of our cabin in the dark­ness of a small town far north. Bed never sounded so good.

We got up well be­fore dawn in the hope of pump­ing surf. A dawnie in the depths of win­ter in Ice­land is ac­tu­ally a sleep in al­most ev­ery­where else. 9.30am saw us dig­ging our trusty van out of the snow. By first light we were down at the shore scream­ing with ex­cite­ment.

A white blan­ket had cosily wrapped the town up all nice and snug and the sea was like a sheet of glass… or ice! Slow lines rolled in in an or­derly fash­ion. Not mas­sive, but we knew the swell was build­ing. It wasn't un­til day­light came that I re­alised how far back in the fjord we were. I was amazed that any swell got in there at all! Two huge white walls ex­tended proudly into the ocean, guard­ing this per­fect lit­tle reef. As we jumped into our

wet­ties, knee deep in snow, the swell started fill­ing in. It was the best surf we’d seen the whole trip. Hoots and hollers en­sued as we surfed un­til our arms couldn't move any­more.

We crawled back up the cliffs to a half frost­bit, very stoked Mike. After our surf we packed our bags and hit the road once again. All in all, it was a to­tal of 20 hours driv­ing for one surf that will re­main in our mem­o­ries for ever. I sup­pose you

could say we were just pass­ing through.

As we drove home in con­tent si­lence I was think­ing to my­self “This trip couldn’t get any bet­ter”. Right on cue, Shan­non let out a “WHHAATHHHUUHHH”. As I ea­gerly peer out the win­dow I see the whole sky light up like a sun­set on acid. Shades of green and pur­ple danced across the sky over glis­ten­ing moun­tain tops, as Shan­non and I hung out the win­dow on top of each other. The light from the city ef­fected their in­ten­sity, but it was enough for me. We ar­rived back to our cabin in awe of one of the best days of surf­ing in our lives.

The next night was un­for­tu­nately my last. We sat around our lit­tle ta­ble sip­ping whiskey, play­ing cards and rem­i­nisc­ing. Un­for­get­table ex­pe­ri­ences with peo­ple I had never spo­ken to just a few weeks pre­vi­ous had so­lid­i­fied life­long friend­ships. I took one more wan­der out into our gar­den and saw a ghostly glow form above our roof. I looked up to see the aurora be­gin to flare up one last time, as if to say good­bye. I called the lads out. Be­cause we were so far out­side the city, the colours were in­cred­i­bly in­tense. Huge bands of colour un­du­lated like a leaf in the wind above us. We were once again mes­merised and trans­fixed on the sky above. I couldn’t have asked for a bet­ter good­bye from the won­der­ful land of fire and ice. I think I’ll take it more as a “see you soon, mate”...

ALL IN ALL, IT WAS A TO­TAL OF 20 HOURS DRIV­ING FOR ONE SURF THAT WILL RE­MAIN IN OUR MEM­O­RIES FOR EVER

One thing you're guar­an­teed in Ice­land is a poop load of weather. Be­low: Chapel of the open sky. Right: Frosty fun­nel.

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