Iceland :: Surf the Arctic Circle
Taken at face value trudging through the snow to reach the surf is a bad idea. It looks amazing on film – all those alpine backdrops and sparkling icebergs – but would you seriously fly 30 hours and wait out weeks of blizzards to participate in what amounts to a very expensive form of self-harm? There are dungeons in Kings Cross that will facilitate that kink at a much better rate. And yet if you're one of the gob-smacked millions who have watched American photographer Chris Burkard's Ted Talk "The Joy of Surfing in Ice Cold Water" you may already have bought a 5mm wettie. He is so very passionate, so very convincing and his photographs are so otherworldly beautiful. A trip to Mars looks dull compared to an Arctic adventure with Burkard at the wheel. The photographer made his name shooting glamorous tropical waves around the planet but became stale and bored returning to the same old tourist strips. He wanted something more. In Iceland he found it bobbing in freezing water while a snowstorm howled and his blood rushed to his vital organs and he nearly blacked out from the pain and the extreme cold. To explain why this moment was also one of the happiest in his life he quotes the psychologist Brock Bastian: "Pain is a short cut to mindfulness. It makes us suddenly aware of everything in the environment. It brutally draws us into a virtual sensory awareness of the world much like meditation." If it's adventure amid the majesty of the natural world you're after you'll find it and much else in the Arctic. Two other factors recommend extreme cold water destinations like Norway, Russia, Alaska, Patagonia and the Farrow Islands. While inconsistent, they can get seriously good: thick barrelling slabs, long juicy points and well-groomed beach breaks are out there in the snow. And they rarely if ever get crowded (thanks in part to a midnight sun in the summer months). If you're even a tiny bit curious check out Burkard's photographs and short films. And maybe "warm up" with a winter trip to New Zealand's South Island.
THE ONLY CROWD TO WORRY ABOUT IN THE ARCTIC ARE THE ICEBERGS. PHOTO: CODY WELSH