Brav­ing the cold: Surf­ing above the Arc­tic Cir­cle

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Sports -

“YOU come up from the ocean, and you’re just freak­ing cold,” says Unn Hol­gersen, who surfs al­most ev­ery day in the frigid waves off the coast of Nor­we­gian is­lands above the Arc­tic Cir­cle.

It’s deep win­ter in this land of the spec­tac­u­lar North­ern Lights, flash­ing green on the hori­zon, and the wa­ter is just four de­grees Cel­sius (39 Fahren­heit).

“You have to put your feet in a bowl of hot wa­ter, and you have to change re­ally quickly,” the 32-year-old vet­eri­nar­ian ad­vises.

It may be cold and iso­lated, but Hol­gersen has cho­sen to live on the Lo­foten Is­lands be­cause she is ad­dicted to the thrill of win­ter surf­ing.

On its snow-cov­ered beaches, she and other ded­i­cated surfers brave the freez­ing weather - out­side air tem­per­a­ture is a chilly mi­nus 15 Cel­sius - and the fe­roc­ity of the ocean.

“I love the feel­ing,” says one surfer af­ter rid­ing the waves.

That ex­hil­a­ra­tion is shared by all those who visit the tiny town of Unstad on the is­lands.

Among them are two stu­dents, Christina Kolbu and Sol­moy Austbo, who trav­elled three days in a mini-van to reach the frosty shores.

They quickly change out of their hippy garb, put on thick win­ter wet­suits and grab their boards to head out into the wait­ing surf.

De­spite the chill, they do not hes­i­tate as they plunge into the glacial wa­ters.

When com­ing back to shore, they clutch their boards as they clam­ber up the beach as thick snowflakes fall around them.

Unstad is a fa­vorite site with surfers: a vast open hori­zon with a se­ries of snow­capped peaks on ei­ther side of the beach.

Sit­u­ated above the Arc­tic Cir­cle, around the same lat­i­tude as north­ern Siberia and Alaska, its wa­ters re­main ac­ces­si­ble due to the Gulf Stream, which some­what warms the ocean cur­rent that flows across the At­lantic to Nor­way’s coast.

“Surf­ing is a life­style, it’s a must,” says Lisa Blom, a 38-year-old ho­tel man­ager.

“We have bet­ter waves, qual­ity waves, they’re usu­ally big­ger, con­sis­tent.”

Some of the surfers ar­gue there are even bet­ter waves here than in south­ern Europe or Bali.

“We have nice clear days, there are not too many people and the beau­ti­ful scenery,” says Hol­gersen. “It’s the whole pack­age.

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