Surfing Scandinavia

surfing scandinavia

Have you ever dreamed of surf­ing under an arc­tic sky, per­haps beneath the incom­pa­ra­ble splen­dor of the north­ern lights? Surfers and surf enthu­si­asts may be more like­ly to name famous big-wave breaks like Tahiti’s Teahupo’o or Portugal’s Nazaré as their des­ti­na­tions of choice, but to push your lim­its in a whol­ly dif­fer­ent way and increase your chances of enjoy­ing a soli­tary line­up to boot, set your sights on the Nordic lands of Scan­di­navia.

Rocky shores against iron seas, lush pas­ture­land dot­ted with graz­ing sheep, and crag­gy, snow-capped moun­tains are just a few of the fea­tures that dom­i­nate the myth­i­cal land­scape here at the top of the world, and that’s if you’re vis­it­ing dur­ing the sum­mer months when the sun hangs high in the sky and as many as a full twen­ty-four hours of day­light mean prac­ti­cal­ly end­less chances to hang ten. If you’re ready to tack­le the sub­ze­ro tem­per­a­tures, bliz­zards, and storm surges in the unfor­giv­ing dark of win­ter, though, you may be reward­ed with even more chal­leng­ing surf.

Speak­ing of sub­ze­ro temperatures—which isn’t an exag­ger­a­tion come the win­ter months—regardless of where you intend to pad­dle out, you’ll want to ensure you have all the appro­pri­ate gear. The air tem­per­a­tures can be cold­er than the water, warmed just enough by a fin­ger of the Gulf Stream to stay liq­uid, so lay­ers of prop­er dry gear are a must. More impor­tant­ly, though, you’ll want to make sure your wet­suit is up to the task. Advances in insu­la­tion tech mean we’ve come a long way since the days when Thor Frantzen and Hans Egil Krane, local­ly cred­it­ed as the first surfers in Nor­way, strode out into the waves at Unstad wear­ing wool sweaters under their rub­ber div­ing suits (hav­ing already found bathing suits alone insuf­fi­cient to the task). In addi­tion to a good wet­suit, you’ll want a hood, gloves, and booties, and even a heat­ed vest might not go amiss.

Suit­ed up? Right­eous. Here are some of the sweet­est spots in the Scan­di­na­vian cold-water surf­ing world.

surfing scandinavia

Torö Sten­strand

This peb­bled beach in the south­ern part of the Stock­holm Arch­i­pel­ago is regard­ed as the best surf spot in Swe­den, home to a num­ber of nation­al surf cham­pi­onships, includ­ing the 2017 SVENSKA MÄSTERSKAP. The rocky reef respon­si­ble for peaky waves has been steadi­ly scoot­ing clos­er to shore, reduc­ing aver­age wave heights, although 10’ swells aren’t unheard-of. Hav­ing a rep­u­ta­tion like this means the line­up may resem­ble that of your aver­age trop­i­cal break, with some fifty to six­ty surfers flock­ing to the waves on a good day, so don’t plan for soli­tude here—instead, relax and enjoy the com­pa­ny.

Jæren

Home to the first ded­i­cat­ed surf­ing com­mu­ni­ty in Nor­way, Jæren offers long, sandy beach­es for begin­ner-friend­ly rides in the frigid North Sea. Free from the dra­mat­ic cliffs that char­ac­ter­ize oth­er parts of these shores, the hori­zon seems end­less here in the low­lands of the Sta­vanger Penin­su­la. Bore is a pop­u­lar beach break for its reli­a­bil­i­ty and short, hol­low waves, while Sele offers a fun right-hand boul­der point break that’s a lit­tle more chal­leng­ing but still doable for novices giv­en the rel­a­tive­ly calm seas. Show up in autumn or brave the win­ter for big­ger, more pow­er­ful chal­lenges.

Hod­de­vik

A stun­ning beach break framed by majes­tic moun­tain peaks, surfers reg­u­lar­ly make the pil­grim­age to Hod­de­vik for its con­sis­tent lines and beau­ti­ful white sand. It doesn’t hurt either that the water tem­per­a­ture gets as warm as 64°F toward late sum­mer, which is coin­ci­den­tal­ly when the swell begins to get larg­er and rougher. Even bet­ter? There are not one, but two surf camps, eager to offer you accom­mo­da­tions pack­aged with gear rental and cold-water surf lessons. Not bad for a pas­toral town with a per­ma­nent res­i­dent pop­u­la­tion of few­er than thir­ty, right?

Lofoten

The Lofoten Islands are a tru­ly wild place, fierce in the face of the tur­bu­lent Nor­we­gian Sea that’s home to hood­ed and harp seals, orcas and blue whales, squid, and a fero­cious mael­strom called the Moskstrau­men. So it may come as a sur­prise that amidst these untram­meled moun­tains, shel­tered inlets, and sparkling fjords can be found some of the best north­ern surf. Its loca­tion north of the arc­tic cir­cle gives it a degree of nov­el­ty, too; here surfers can line up beneath the sum­mer­time mid­night sun, or the north­ern lights if they’re lucky and expe­ri­enced enough to ride the stormi­er swells dur­ing the dark months between Sep­tem­ber and mid-April. Unstad on the island of Vestvågøy is the biggest name in the islands, host to the annu­al Lofoten Mas­ters and Unstad Arc­tic Surf, found­ed as Unstad Camp­ing by one of Norway’s first surfers, Thor Frantzen.