Norway, the land of the midnight sun, home of aurora borealis, snus, fata morgana and the Nisse and the Tomte. Norway has so much to offer when it comes to surfing, and the Lofoten Islands are a place of unparalleled beauty and wonder.
It's hard to get to Lofoten if you're coming for a visit, with many planes to catch and quite a bit of driving, but it is a fantastic place and well worth the effort to get there.
Surfed for the first time by Norwegian surfers many years ago, the Lofoten region was revealed by a Surfer Magazine article in the '80s, where they pinpointed the wave known as Valhalla.
Still, they didn't really score any waves to speak of. Long before their accurate swell forecasters knew anything about it, surf trips were planned months in advance, and the surfers were just reliant on the whims of nature.
Nowadays surf travel has evolved to a fine art. There is very little doubt involved, and a strike mission usually turns out well. The swells can be seen weeks in advance, and the winds as well. If you see something coming, you can time it to get to your destination as the first edges of a new swell start arriving. There is very little need for guesswork or impulsiveness. Some people call this an improvement, but that is subjective.
These days there is no one hanging around Lofoten on the off chance of a surprise swell, and when the forecasts look good, then the surfers arrive, move into local accommodation, and wait for the swell to come.
There are two excellent waves at Unstadt, and many more in the close vicinity, but surfing in Norway is not as easy as you would think.
The water is cold. There is no getting around it. The surf only comes with bad weather, and there is very little chance of surfing at any of the spots unless you're in cutting-edge wetsuits, boots, gloves and hood. You need a slightly thicker board to accommodate all the rubber and an excellent attitude to dealing with the cold. Maybe a little bottle of sherry, or rum.
The waves in Lofoten are of good to excellent quality. The sight of Valhalla reeling down the point, with snow-covered mountains in the background, is a sight to behold. The wave is long, it is perfect, and there are barrel sections on the inside. It's not heavy, and you can pick up a few bombs even if you're not a pro surfer.
The left on the other side of the bay is also a classic wave and has moments when it gets really good, reeling across the outside reef with high-performance walls and the odd barrel.
Even though it is a clinical process to get waves at Unstadt, it still feels like quite an adventure, and when you approach the area, check out the wild countryside with huge mountains, icy lakes, and cliffs running into the sea you realise how wild it must have been all those years ago.
There is a rebuilt longboat in the vicinity, made from the remains of a genuine longboat wreck. It has been turned into a banquet hall or party venue. Walking around it makes you think back to another time, to a time when Vikings walked the earth, and when life was short and ephemeral.
As visitors to Norway, we are incredibly privileged to able to cover such massive distances on a whim, in search for waves, and we are even more privileged as surfers to be able to paddle out and have fun riding some Norwegian waves. We should, as surfers, be grateful for what we have, every day.