”Fuck guys… this is the coldest I have ever felt…”
Marlon Gerber records a video message from the relative safety of Tim Latte’s car (which seems to be parked in a blizzard). Hands shaking beyond control. A tormented/confused kind of fear in his eyes – he’s not in Bali anymore.
Marlon involuntarily shakes and shudders the warmth back into his body as Latte navigates the ice-laden road that leads the two surfers back to the warmth and apparent safety of the Arctic Coworking Lodge in Lofoten.
It’s March, so it’s not just cold, it’s FUCKING COLD.
Marlon isn’t exaggerating. A part of him really thinks he is dying.
Tim and Marlon are in the cold Arctic north of Norway to film for a new project supported by Kona Brewing. There’s a dedicated crew from El Flamingo Films weathering the snowstorms and near-zero temperatures to tell the story of a guy who calls Indonesia home, suddenly finding himself in an unfamiliar environment, figuring out how to ride waves in such brutally unfamiliar conditions. You’re podcast host tagged along to document the trip in written and podcast form while sneaking in a few icy barrels in between.
“Josh, it’s Tim. I got this film crew and Marlon Gerber coming up to Lofoten to shoot a short film for Kona Brewing, do you want to come along and cover it for the magazine?”
“Sure! What’s the film about exactly?”
“Well, we’re bringing Marlon over from Indonesia to explore Norway and document him experiencing some coldwater surfing with me. It’s called Clash of Climates.”
I couldn’t help but think that this story had already been told a few times. Images of a Malloy in an open air hot tub, reheating after an ice cold session at Unstad; Tom Carroll espousing the importance of using Surf Ears after an ice cold session at Unstad; Mick Fanning, recounting how he was freaking out about surfing in snow and under the Northern Lights, all rugged up of course, after an ice cold session at Unstad…
It seemed like ‘ice cold sessions at Unstad’, followed by an adrenaline-fueled retelling of the experience on film has been de rigeur for a while now. How would this trip really be any different?
“So, are you keen to come?”
Tim Latte’s enthusiasm can break a cynical internal monologue with the same ease as a blackbelt breaking a timber board.
“Fuck yeah bro. Can’t wait!”
I’d figure something out…
Marlon Gerber is a surfer whose effortless style makes any wave look beautiful. There is nothing forced in his approach. Every movement he makes on a wave pulses and propels him with a natural rhythm that is rare in modern surfing. It is beauty over brutal. He is a wave-dancer, not a wave destroyer. It’s a joy to witness in real-life.
He’s also a bloody nice guy on land too. Polite, attentive, not one to take center of the stage or exaggerate a story. He’s a relaxed guy who is comfortable in his own skin. Easy.
The first day Marlon was to enter the frigid waters of Lofoten he realized that he had a small hole in his glove. It didn’t look like much. Surely one small hole couldn’t cause too much pain? The consensus was that it in fact wouldn’t. Marlon lasted 20 minutes.
He made the most of those 20 minutes though, but the poor guy was hurting. The cold got him good and that hole in his glove played no small part in the torture.
The film crew were concerned too, wondering how they were going to get enough footage if Marlon was only going to be able to last 20 minutes at a time.
Tim Latte doesn’t seem to get cold. His positive and hyperactive state of being acts like a kind of metabolic furnace. He’s Wim Hof without breath but froth. He measures even the most uncomfortable of Nordic surfing experiences in hours not minutes.
I could see that he was a little concerned about delivering on the project for Kona. Back at the Arctic Coworking Lodge (our basecamp for the trip) we spoke about the situation.
“Shit man, if Marlon isn’t going to be in the water more than half an hour, we’re not going to get this thing done right.”
Tim had put a lot of effort into bringing this project to life. It was his baby and a kind of test to see if he could manage a project that was bigger than himself. If the star of the show wasn’t going to be able to perform what kind of short film could be made of it? The concern was real and knowing how temperamental the weather can be in Lofoten during winter, opportunities to film enough content were already going to be scarce.
Marlon was in very real pain after that first surf in Lofoten. He really did seem to be wondering what the hell he was doing, surfing in such a place. There was nothing pretty about it or inspiring. It kinda sucked and hurt a bunch.
“My friends thought I was tripping, surfing up here, saying ‘you’ve got perfect waves at home, why are you going surfing up there?’”
After that first surf, and when the circulation returned to his frozen white fingers, Marlon certainly knew his friends had been correct.
What the fuck was he doing in Lofoten?
Who the hell thinks this is fun?
But many surfers in the Nordics do find it a lot of fun, right. They analyze wind forecasts and every angle of coastline for potential wave/wind optimization and combinations. They drive long distances on expensive fuel and only half a hope. In the event that there are clean waves, they surf as long as the light will enable them. If the waves are horrible, they’ll suit up and surf as long as the light will enable them. The Nordic surfer has low expectations and high tolerance for the mediocre and discomfort.
There’s a different thought process for surfers who haven’t the luxury of long-range ocean swells and weather that doesn’t pose a serious threat of death by cold. There’s a drive into the absurd that only a coldwater surfer truly understands (or doesn’t and is simply acting on instinct). There’s a stone-cold acceptance that freezing half to death is how it’s gotta be, so suit up.
During the first few surfs of the trip, Latte was quick to get in the swing of things in what were average waves. Stoked to be out there in the elements and content to freeze a bit for mediocre and inconsistent waves. Marlon was wincing with pain, disliking every stroke. Maybe he would be the exception to the cliché in my cynical mind. Maybe this really would be too much for him.
Hey, the temperature difference for him from departing Bali to arriving in Lofoten was 30 plus degrees and tropical to arctic circle. I couldn’t blame him if he were to only last 30 minutes in the water at a time. But it wasn’t going to make for a great surf clip.
Marlon truly was experiencing a clash of climates, deep in his bones.
No spoilers here, rather, a taste…
Midway through Clash of Climates there is a moment where Marlon is shivering almost uncontrollably as he desperately tries to warm himself up by the tiny heaters in Tim Latte’s car. Teeth chattering and body shaking to within a degree of convulsion. He is distracted by the pain he is feeling. He is in a crisis.
As if to seek reassurance and some warmth through shared misery he asks Latte “you’re cold too huh?”
He then looks at the outside temperature gauge and it reads minus 2.
Few words have been spoken in this moment but the last say it all.
“I can’t wait to go home.”
Things aren’t looking great. Maybe cold does get old for some?
You’ll have to watch our 24 hours streaming of Clash of Climates on thursday the 2nd april, here on Nordic Surfers Mag to find out.
All photos: sdxfotografie