Take part in the thriving surf scene in Norway and enjoy arctic adventures, rough nature, and uncrowded waves. Here are some of the hot spots.
Text: Kjersti Vangerud
“I wake up a couple of hours before sunrise, grab a coffee, and do some stretching before I head to the surf break. I watch the sun rise in the horizon. The light is magical, the waves are rolling in. I am surrounded by snow, sun and good friends.”
This is how Hallvard Kolltveit, one of Norway’s best surf photographers, describes a perfect day in the office.
In the recent years Kolltveit has travelled the world to document some of the world’s best surfers. He has lived in Hawaii and Portugal and has spent months in tropical paradises all around the globe.
“As a photographer, I like to capture dimensions. I once heard a photographer call it ‘little surfer, big landscape’. So when I started specializing in surf photography, I was immediately drawn to places like Iceland and Norway, rather than ‘typical’ tropical islands. To me, Lofoten is simply the prettiest place on earth.”
“I once heard a photographer call it ‘little surfer, big landscape’”
To be able to capture the raw beauty of the sport, Kolltveit jumps in the freezing water with the surfers and swims around with his camera in big waves and fast-paced action.
What is it like working as a surf photographer in Norway?
“First of all, you have to be at the right place at the right time. In order to make a living out of it, you can’t live more than a couple of hours drive from the waves. While a football field looks pretty much the same 365 days a year, the ocean changes every second. You never know what to expect, especially not in Norway, where the weather changes all the time. You definitely need a bit of stubbornness and patience. You must withstand ice-cold days in February and stormy days in November. I guess they call it passion.”
What’s the Norwegian surf culture like?
“I have to point out that I haven’t been in the surf community for 30 years, like some have. There are people who have worked hard for decades and spent plenty of time mapping the coastline, cleaning beaches, and setting up infrastructure in order to make surfing a safe, fun, and sustainable sport. The fact that these ardent souls let people like me take part in the activity and the community they for a long time could enjoy by themselves, says a lot about how open, cool, and incredible they are. Basically, all of my closest friends are involved in the surf community in some way, which is another thing I love about surfing. No matter where I go in Norway or in the rest of the world, I always have friends to hang out with.”
“There is something about being in the ocean, totally devoid of technology. No phone, laptop, or Wi-Fi. To be completely at the mercy of the elements. That definitely gives you a rush. Another cool thing about surfing is that no matter where you are in the world, you know that the person who’s rocking up next to you in the parking lot – whether it’s in an SUV or in a Volvo 240 – is looking for the exact same thing as you.”
Where: In recent years, Norway has earned its deserved place as an international surfing destination. From Lofoten in the north to Rogaland in the southwest you can enjoy excellent conditions for surfing.
When: The surf season lasts from February to November: summer (May–September) is most welcoming for beginners, while the late autumn and winter (September–May) offer rougher and tougher waves for more experienced surfers.
How: There are several surf camps in Norway that offer packages for beginners and intermediate surfers, including accommodation, lessons, and board and gear rental. Wetsuits, booties, and gloves are a must if you want to surf in Norway during winter.
Get introduced to some of the highlights.
Explore the winds and waves of the North Sea. Jæren is a scenic stretch of coastline in the county of Rogaland in Fjord Norway. This area south of Stavanger offers surfing spots that range from easy and gentle beaches for beginners to more demanding boulder rock points for more advanced surfers. In October 2017 Jæren hosted Eurosurf – the European championship of surfing.
“This is where many Oslo-based surfers go after they have finished work on a Friday. Driving over the hilltop and looking down the iconic road that leads to Hoddevik valley is undoubtedly an adventure in itself. The combination of fjords, mountains and farms makes the surf community located ‘in the middle of nowhere’ very special.”
“Lofoten is undoubtedly the best place to surf in Norway. However, it’s important to point out that the conditions are not world-class every day. People who live in Lofoten go through storms and a lot of rough weather, which might not be reflected through social media. But when everything falls into place, there is no place you’d rather be. And the good thing is that you’re never bored in Lofoten. So while you’re waiting for the waves to roll in, you can always go skiing, kayaking, climbing, or hiking – or just hang out with the laid-back locals.”
Norway Surf Association (Norges Surf Forbund, or NSRF) was founded in 1985. In 2012 the NSRF became part of the Norwegian Confederation of Sports (NIF), reflecting the sport’s growing popularity and significance in Norway.
Crown Prince Haakon got bitten by the surfing bug while a student at UC Berkeley in the 1990s. He is still a keen surfer and was part of the committee planning the 2017 and 2018 European Championships in surfing at Jæren.
Check out and read more about some of Norway's surf spots.
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