The Iceland Surf Trip of a Lifetime
Australian surfers trade Byron Bay beaches for an epic week of frozen waves, hot springs, and van camping
Kain and Alex had decided to go on a surf trip to Iceland, in the middle of winter. I said I couldn't go, as I had been away too much and my girlfriend was on the verge of ending things. As it turned out though, I wasn’t wrong. She ended things and I jumped straight on the Iceland trip as soon as I got the news.
I love surfing, I always have. It’s consumed most of my teenage and adult life. But I grew up in Byron Bay, Australia, and to me cold weather was 17C (63F). I had dreamed of surfing in the snow for a while, but always chalked it up as a pipe dream. Until it became very real.
When we flew in everything was white as far as you could see. We were all a little over-excited and really had no idea what was in store. We exited the airport to freezing temps and picked up our tiny camper van designed more for two people, or a couple, than three full grown men. This quickly became a theme.
Our first surf the next day was incredibly eye opening. We surfed near a glacier with chunks of ice floating in the water as we paddled over waves. our 6/5mm wetsuits, gloves, booties and hoodies seemed to make little to no difference—anything more than a few seconds underwater would lead to the most intense brain freezes that felt like your skull was shrinking and literally crushing your brain. But that’s what we had come for.
"A few seconds underwater would lead to the most intense brain freezes that felt like your skull was shrinking and literally crushing your brain."
Day two was not as pleasant of a the start. When removing our wetsuits from the van’s top box they were frozen solid and came out like massive pieces of cardboard. All we could do was try and bend them into shape to fit our freezing extremities inside. You can imagine how that went.
Our final surf was like a fairy tale. The wind was out of control, averaging around 80+ km/h, but as scoured bays and points for any kind of protection we found a spot on the map that looked good. We got to the end of the closest road and asked the confused farmer if we could park there. After hearing yes and that we were crazy we begun the walk through the snow to see if we had found anything. As we came over the last hill we saw a perfect right barrel and spit. We all looked at one another in shock, thinking it was an anomaly. But it happened again and again. So we broke into a run back to the van, changed at an incredible pace, and were out there like lightning.
We only lasted about two hours before the cold began to slowly kill us all, but it was a surf I will never forget. Sitting inside barrels watching snow fall on the water while the entire background is a picture perfect scene of snow covered volcanic mountains is an experience almost unrivaled in my surfing career.
We had come for waves and adventures, though we really only thought we would find one. As it turned out, Iceland far exceeded any expectations we ever could have ever had.