Drove Through Blizzards by Anna Ehrgott
Photos: Elli Thor
Instagram: @ellithor Web: https://www.ellithor.com/
I brought a 9’6” Bing Cali Square Tail and a 6’4” Bing Dart. A quiver I figured would cover most of my bases going into a trip that didn’t have a solid destination or plan. I landed in a snowstorm, the first of three during my stay in Iceland, which is a small island next to Greenland, somewhere near the top of the world between Canada and Europe.
The airport staff asked me where I was returning from, they were blown away to find out I came HERE, to Iceland, to surf, in the middle of winter. “I knew they did that in Hawaii, but why here!?” I’m not the first and definitely won’t be the last. The waves are too good for that. There are a small handful of locals, and that’s where my trip begins. Loading my board bag to the roof of my friend Elli’s Car with his girlfriend Rachel as soft snow drifted all around us, finding it’s way into our jacket hoods and gnawing at our fingers as we meddled with metal straps on the roof.
The trip only got colder from there. We drove through blizzards, narrowly missing avalanches and rearranging plans in accordance with the roads they subsequently closed. Upon arriving in the north, we’d take the main coastal road, stopping at any break that looked promising. Elli had a few spots in mind, but the wind was harsher than we expected and many of the spots that held the best wave potential lacked access without a boat. It stormed our entire time in the north, making the short 4-hour days feel like even more of a blur.
We only saw the sun for about 15 minutes, which we happened to be in the water for. Everything around us turned a brilliant rose gold. It was still snowing gently, dark clouds stood their ground above us, and on the horizon, the blood-red sun lit everything around it. I remember thinking that the atmosphere looked thick like you could touch the pastel warm colors. The waves really were good, but most of what I actually remember revolves around shivering violently and being so cold that my purple lips couldn’t form words.
We surfed a blown-out right point and a fun beach break that broke over cobblestones. A few people from town came out to watch and ended up recognizing us when we came to take 45 minute long showers at the public pool afterward to warm up. An older woman asked Rachel and me if we were the crazy people she’d seen in the sea. We giggled and nodded as we hurried to the hot water that would help us regain feeling in our extremities.
We returned to Reykjavik feeling slightly defeated. We’d had the best of times, but felt at the mercy of the storms and like maybe we could have gotten better waves. We killed some time on the flat days hanging with friends in the city, cooking, going skiing and eating licorice ice cream (better than it sounds). On my last day, hours before flying out, all my wishes came true.
We surfed an iced-over beach break with shoulder high, sano-esque waves. We’d caravanned out with a few buddies from town, ate pastries until sunrise at 10 am then surfed for HOURS. Just having the sun out helped us stay warm and the perfect waves kept morale high. Iceland really is feast or famine, but we got our fill that day. I flew out with noodle arms and that indescribable satisfied feeling.