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.
“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 on the horizon. The light is magical, and 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.
The wave hunter
In 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.
However, in 2016 he decided to move to the Lofoten archipelago – 160 kilometres above the Arctic Circle – to a place known for its majestic mountains, deep fjords – and world-class surf conditions.
“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 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.
How is Norway as a surf destination?
“Norway is one of the northernmost places in the world where you can surf, which means the water is cold, and during winter, the beaches might be covered in snow. What makes Norway a one-of-a-kind surf destination is the combination of great waves, wonderful people, and raw Nordic nature. Just imagine surfing with 1,000-metre high mountains as a backdrop!”
What is it like working as a surf photographer in Norway?
“First of all, you have to be in the right place at the right time. 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 an infrastructure 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 somehow, which is another thing I love about surfing. No matter where I go in Norway or 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.”
Kolltveit’s top 3 surf spots in Norway
Get introduced to some of the highlights.
Jæren, Fjord Norway
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 2017 and 2018 Jæren hosted Eurosurf – the European championship of surfing.
“Jæren is what we can call the ‘epicentre’ for surfing in Norway. The area is known for being windswept, but as soon as the wind turns, this place is amazing. I’ve had some unforgettable days in Jæren, both in February and in October. This is the most commercialised surf spot in Norway, so if you happen to run out of surf wax, you can be sure to find some at the local gas station.”
Stad, Fjord Norway
In Nordfjord lies the Stad peninsula, the westernmost part of mainland Norway. Swells from both southwest and northwest hit the sandy beach Ervikstranda, which is where you’ll find most waves. Another popular spot is Hoddevik, located 20–30 minutes south of Ervikstranda. Here you can enjoy crystal clear water framed by 300-metre tall mountains.
“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.”
The Lofoten Islands, Northern Norway
Recognised as one of the best places in the world for cold-water surfing, Lofoten offers excellent waves and wild nature. The left-handed wave in the sea at Unstad, the best-known surfing spot in the archipelago, attracts surfers from all over the world. Professionals come in autumn and winter, while the gentler summer waves are ideal for beginners.
“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.”
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