Surfing in Iceland

If you’re seeking an unconventional surf trip destination, let’s shine a light on the icy gems of the North Atlantic – the surf breaks of Iceland. This Nordic island, situated at the juncture of the Arctic and North Atlantic Oceans, might not be the first name that springs to mind when you think about surfing, but it’s increasingly attracting the intrepid surf tribe. Despite the chilling waters, Iceland has a surf scene that’s as hot as the lava that flows from its famous volcanoes.

Iceland boasts a plethora of surf spots along its rugged coastline that get lit up by powerful swells rolling in from the Atlantic. From sandy beach breaks to gnarly reef breaks, the diversity and quality of the waves here are mind-blowing. Surfing amid the dramatic landscapes, under the magical Northern Lights or the midnight sun, is an experience that stays etched in your heart forever.

But remember, surfing in Iceland is a dance with the elements. You’ll find beauty in the rawness, silence, and solitude, but it’s a challenging environment. The water temperatures can drop below freezing, and the weather is as unpredictable as it gets. But if you are the adventurous kind, ready to ride the frosty waves, gear up for an exhilarating surf journey into the wilderness of Iceland.

Where to Surf in Iceland

Ready to ride icy waves with the backdrop of dramatic landscapes? Start your Icelandic surf adventure at the Reykjanes Peninsula. This volcanic region in southwestern Iceland is a haven for surf enthusiasts. The powerful waves of Sandvik offer a sandy-bottom beach break that accommodates all levels, making it a popular choice. For experienced riders, Porlackshöfn is an alluring spot. This reef break dishes up consistent surf, but its strong currents and sharp lava rocks make it a test for the daring.

Venture off to the remote Westfjords, and you’ll find some of the country’s hidden surfing treasures. These less accessible, starkly beautiful regions are home to spots like Ólafsfjörður and Skagaströnd. Known for their challenging waves, these locations are recommended for intermediate to advanced surfers who love a little bit of adrenaline rush.

On the western side of Iceland, the Snæfellsnes Peninsula provides surfers with a different kind of thrill. With its incredible landscapes that will leave you speechless, spots like Ytri-Tunga stand out. A sandy beach break, Ytri-Tunga can offer suitable conditions for beginners when the weather gods play along.

Remember, Icelandic waters can be unforgiving, and safety should always be a priority. Always surf within your limits and preferably not alone. Stay flexible, as the dynamic weather of Iceland might demand a quick change in plans. Despite the challenges, the reward is in the unparalleled beauty and uncrowded waves of this icy surfing paradise.

When to surf in Iceland

Iceland’s surf season follows its whimsical weather patterns. Typically, the prime time to catch the best waves lies in the chillier months, between September and April. During this period, the North Atlantic storms churn up the ocean, sending a series of solid swells towards Iceland’s shores. It’s a spectacle reserved for the brave, as the water temperatures hover around 2-6°C. Intermediate to advanced surfers can embrace these challenging conditions, adorned in a good quality winter wetsuit, boots, gloves, and a hood.

On the other hand, for beginners or those who prefer slightly warmer waters, summer (May to August) can be a good time to visit. The water temperatures rise up to a still cool 10-12°C, but the waves tend to be smaller and more manageable. Remember, the Arctic summer brings with it the phenomenon of the midnight sun, which means you can surf under the sun even at midnight!

Regardless of when you choose to go, the weather in Iceland is unpredictable. Storms can roll in suddenly, and winds can switch directions abruptly, so flexibility is key. Always check the local weather and surf forecasts before heading out for your surf session. Keep in mind, the adventure in Iceland lies as much in navigating its elemental challenges as in riding its icy waves.

Culture and Non-Surfing Activities in Iceland

Surfing might be a mind-blowing experience in Iceland, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what this awe-inspiring land has to offer. The culture of Iceland, deeply rooted in ancient Nordic traditions, unfolds itself through local cuisine, music, literature, and folklore, all under the spell of magical landscapes.

First things first, get acquainted with the renowned geothermal wonders of Iceland. Soak your surf-tired muscles in the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa known for its milky-blue seawater. Or, explore the geysers and hot springs scattered around the country, each presenting a spectacle of nature’s power.

For nature enthusiasts, Iceland is nothing short of a paradise. Go for a hike on the Vatnajökull Glacier, Europe’s largest ice cap, or explore the lava fields and volcanic craters. Don’t forget to marvel at the spectacular waterfalls, such as Gullfoss and Skógafoss. Also, the sight of Northern Lights dancing in the sky is a memory to cherish forever.

For a taste of Icelandic life, head to Reykjavik, the nation’s capital. Here, you can stroll around the quaint streets, visit art galleries, museums, and enjoy local cuisine – don’t skip the traditional lamb soup or the fresh seafood! The vibrant music scene is another highlight, with live music, festivals, and performances happening throughout the year.

Lastly, dive into the Viking history of Iceland, visiting the historical sites and museums to understand the sagas and folklore that still influence contemporary Icelandic culture. Despite its isolation, Iceland has a rich and proud culture that is as captivating as its landscapes. Whether you are a surfer, a nature lover, or a culture enthusiast, Iceland promises an unforgettable journey.

“Know before you go” surfing in Iceland

Hitting the surf in Iceland can be a surreal experience, but it requires some meticulous planning and preparation. First and foremost, you must respect the sheer power of the Icelandic seas. Cold water surfing is not a casual affair; it’s intense and can be risky. Always check weather conditions, ocean forecasts, and follow safety guidelines. If you’re unsure, seek advice from local surf schools or experienced surfers.

Iceland’s waters are icy cold, even in summer, so a good quality, thick wetsuit (5/4 or 6/5 mm) with boots, gloves, and a hood is essential. It’s also advisable to have a surfboard suitable for cold water surf, usually with a bit more volume to help with the additional buoyancy of the wetsuit.

When it comes to reaching the surf spots, having a 4×4 vehicle is handy due to the variable quality of roads, especially in remote areas. Many surf spots can be off the beaten track, so a GPS or a good map is essential.

Ensure you have appropriate travel insurance that covers cold water surfing. Healthcare in Iceland is of high quality but can be expensive for non-residents.

Embrace the local customs and laws. Iceland is a country that values its natural environment, so please respect it. Follow leave-no-trace principles, and be aware of protected areas where activities might be restricted.

Language-wise, most Icelanders speak excellent English, but learning a few phrases in Icelandic can always bring a smile to the locals.

Lastly, prepare yourself mentally. Iceland’s surf is less about bikini-clad beach days and more about a raw, powerful communion with Mother Nature. The elements here are fierce but incredibly beautiful, and the experience is like nowhere else. The feeling of surfing under the Northern Lights or the midnight sun is truly magical. So, brace yourself for the cold, respect the sea, and get ready for an epic Icelandic surf adventure!