Please note, the following is an abridged version of the original article.

Words by Renee Farrar
Photos by Elli Thor

Let it be clear: the surf here has to be chased, and even when you find it, it probably will be nothing that resembles what was expected. Perfect waves are not just there, lapping encouragingly, beckoning the eager. Much travel across hard ground is needed, as well as local knowledge and tenacity to even get the chance of finding a wave, let alone riding it. The journey to some of the coastal locations in themselves can be treacherous and testing. One has to embrace rather than fight the elements in this Arctic island. The wind is simply unstoppable. The land is dominated by it and the mostly inclement weather that results. Extreme is normal here. To describe the Icelandic landscape as dramatic and rugged would be to sugarcoat the truth.

Our nipples our rubbing themselves into a rash just looking at this ice bath.
Heiđar camping in summer.
Heiđar camping in summer. Even in summer you need three layers of clothes.

But surfing is possible here, and it is with intrigue I watch Heiđar Logi Ellíason, Iceland’s only pro surfer, and his photographer friend Elli Thor prepare for a surf trip. Ice tools for vehicle rescue, ropes, survival rations, mountaineering grade outerwear and spare winter tyres are essential provisions. Every trip has unexpected outcomes – the trip itself may not be possible; often times storms are so fierce that people across Iceland have to take shelter indoors for days, boats have to harbour, warmth and safety has to be sought by all. Trying to get out and surf in this torrent of ice water rain and sleet is no light-hearted affair. Heiđar is no stranger to these conditions. The seemingly endless waiting in cabins, tents or campervans can be days long, as well as soul destroying. A weather window seems like a labour of love that only the wildly optimistic or the foolhardy would pursue.

“I’ve never been a fan of doing the same things over and over again; being stuck in a loop living the same day over and over again. The thing about surfing in Iceland is you’ll never know what you’ll find. You might think the forecast looks the same or similar to that perfect day you had a few weeks ago, but the outcome will never be what you expect. There’s so much fickleness behind surfing in Iceland, and that’s what I find exciting about it. You simply have to do the drive, spend the money and take the chance if you want to know what the waves are like.”