We landed early and drifted through the airport to the waiting car. The most inappropriate car, for boards, tents, cameras and Icelandic roads. We bailed on the extra sand and volcanic ash protection and with dire warnings not to take it off-road ringing in our ears we got the hell out, heading north.
Iceland apart from the Reykjanes peninsula is still pretty unknown and uncharted but with some helpful tips from local photographer Elli, Ingo at Arctic Surfers and a few friends back home we headed to the part they call the Westfjords.
It’s a remote peninsula in the far north, villages are regularly cut off during snowstorms and huge bays are inaccessible by road. A boat or a pair of stout boots are the only way in.
That first night we pitched under headlights and awoke at first light to an astounding view. A quick coffee to let the beauty sink in before we hit the road running, 4 hours of gravel awaited us. Every twist and turn of the road heard fresh gasps of awe, the wind was howling, mini gravel bars lined up along fjords and our thoughts drifted, we stopped by a huge empty hotel to fill up and sunk into the thermally heated outdoor pool.
We tossed a coin as to which fjord would be best (one seemed more open – bigger, windier, the other more sheltered smaller, cleaner), and set off over the mountains and around fjords. Reaching the summit and looking down over the bay was a phenomenal moment, a track twisted down weaving its way beside a river that crashed and foamed as it emptied into the sea forming a perfect sand bar.
We saw the offshore spray and the poor little car was seaward bound, bouncing down the track.
The end of the road, as we’ll call it, was deceptively small but as the tide and swell pushed in it grew and before long Noah paddled out through the crazy offshores to overhead barrels grinding down the bank. We surfed again the next morning and watched as the swell dropped, we sunk back as the northern lights danced and we made a plan to move on.
Down south we scored a right point, met friends, and watched as a small low developed… we picked a river mouth with huge potential and pitched in for the night. Camp Disappointment we called it – the waves never materialized but it was anything but a disappointment. As the camp fire was lit the north lights danced and dazzled as we ran around time lapsing and shooting until the early hours when the whisky and batteries ran out.
Iceland is a special spot, it’s constantly evolving as volcanoes spew their guts. Its lava reefs are not as developed as the Canaries but in a few thousand years as the ocean works its magic a visit might find a new El Quemao and more points that run. But right now the hunt for genuinely unsurfed waves is very much part of the fun in Iceland. Unless you’re a hire car that is.