The idea of going to Iceland all started at the beginning of this year when Chadd Konig pitched the idea to prAna. The idea was to do a surfing/climbing shoot in the Fall/Winter 2015/16 catalog line. I had been chosen as one of the athletes to come on the trip along with Chadd, Chris Sharma, and Anna Ehrghott. The details begun to unfold and before no time it was the end of June and I was packing my bags in Cape Town ready to depart for the small island in the Arctic known as Iceland.
After 24 hours of travel, I arrive in the land where the sun never sets. It was 6:00 pm and the sky looked like it was brighter than ever and a sunset was nowhere in sight. Having been in South Africa for the past month, it was quite refreshing to see the sun late into the day, as I had grown accustomed to nightfall around 6:00 pm. An Icelandic man named Ingo picked me up from the airport. He thought he was picking up a photographer but was quite surprised to see my surfboard bag and crash pad in tow. We quickly left the airport and rushed to meet the others at the local hotel. As we drove, he pointed out local surf spots along the way. The change of landscape was incredible. Just a day ago I was in the mountains of South Africa alone climbing in what felt like a completely different world.
As Ingo and I arrived at the hotel, the only sound that could be heard was that of a slight wind. The crew had taken up the majority of the hotel and everyone was fast asleep. I made my way, with all of my belongings to my room. We had a bit of a bunkroom and I was sharing a room with Chris, Chadd, and the photographer for the trip, Chris Burkard. This was the last moment of silence for the rest of the trip.
As I stumbled into the room, the crew awoke from their catnaps and we all began discussing plans and objectives for the trip. Soon enough everyone was awake and I was introduced to the others who I had not yet met and we all ventured out to the first bouldering spot. What looked to be a very mellow and easy hike, soon became epic as hundreds of birds began attacking us as we ran through a field trying to reach some sort of safety that we thought the small cliff band would bring us. The birds swooped down trying to attack us and I put my pad over my head so that they would attack the pad rather than my head. The cliff band ended up having a few fun climbs but the highlight of that zone was for sure the bird frenzy that arose from entering and exiting the area.
At this point it was to the beach we went for some midnight surfing. The sun still had not begun to set and I was starting to think when would we ever sleep if it never got dark. The waves were quite small but Anna and Chadd seemed psyched to paddle out. The photographers got in position and the rest of the crew relaxed on the beach quite tired and in somewhat of a daze. At around 1:00 am the sun began to get a bit low in the sky and it became a photographers dream. The clicking of the shutter was a constant sound as the light just got better and better.
The following days followed suite, lots of traveling, climbing, and searching for waves. It was pretty incredible to be driving down the road whether it was during that day or at 2 in the morning and if we saw a boulder to climb on we would hop out of the car, get the pads, clean the line up and make a cool new first ascent. One that was really memorable to me was when we were driving down highway 1 and out of the corner of my eye, I spotted an arête on the hillside. We stopped our caravan of cars and rallied up the hill to check out it. Chris and I started to chalk it up and realized it would be a pretty cool line. We set out the pads and got to work. Soon enough, I made the first ascent of what I called, “Shaped by Vikings.” What a cool way to really kick off the trip.
We finally made it to our final spot where we would be spending the remainder of the trip, the small town of Höfn. A few minutes drive from the town is an expansive black sand beach that houses some of the better surfing and bouldering on the island. We were unfortunately plagued with a bit of bad weather and no swell for the first few days but eventually the swell arrived and the sun came out at the end of the week. That always seems to happen on short trips like that.
The last few days of the trip were a bit of a mad rush. Keith Ladzinski joined the crew to shoot video and there was not a moment of down time. On one of the days we ventured off to the rope-climbing crag to get a few shots. The rock was this really cool frictionless black basalt and lent itself to some very fun technical climbing. Chris and I spent the day climbing on anything that caught our eyes. We had no idea about any of the grades of the climbs and it was really nice to just climb for fun and not worry about the difficulty of any of the lines.
We also received a day of swell and capitalized. The water was absolutely freezing cold but Chadd, Anna, Chris, and myself braved the cold and ventured off into the sea to catch some waves. It was a fun little beach break. After a few hours in the water, I could no longer feel my limbs and had to get out. Let’s just say getting out of a wetsuit outside in Iceland is not a fun endeavor! Ill stick to surfing in the tropics 😉
As soon as the trip began, it ended. I was back in Reykjavik, packing my bags and preparing for the long journey back to Cape Town!