SURFERS OF ARCTIC WAVES

A superb series of portraits of some Arctic surfers and their words about the cold water surf.

Lisa Blom, 38, hotel manager

"Surfing is life. It's a must. It's the same for me as breathing, eating, sleeping, being with my family. There are quality waves here, they're consistent. When you're not surfing there are heaps of other things you can do, hike, ski, kayak, stand-up paddle, fish... Lofoten is like a big playground for grownups. Winter surfing is best because the waves are usually bigger but during the summertime (when the light never goes out), the social scene is fantastic, hanging out on the beach and camping."

Inge Weggen, 32, film-maker

"Surfing is freedom, it's disconnecting from everyday life and just being in that place in that moment, it happens just there and then. The surroundings here in Lofoten, the mountains, make the whole experience so much bigger because you can have an eagle flying over you and you can look up at the mountains and you take that into that moment when you're surfing. Spring is my favourite time to surf, we get more light, the days are longer and it is nice with the sun. I prefer the colder season because that's when you have the best waves."

Ellen Holgersen, 32, veterinarian

"Living here in Lofoten has been a dream for a long time because it combines my passion for surfing and the mountains. I prefer the cold water surf, that's why I moved here. I tried living in places where you can surf just outside your doorstep but it was like going to the gym for me, a lot of people and too simple. Here it's more of an expedition because of the cold. I love the feeling that you come up from the ocean and you're just freaking cold. You have to change really quickly and then put your feet in a bowl of hot water, in front of the fireplace."

Tanya Tamburaci Wegge, 34, housewife

"Surfing is pure happiness, to be out in nature. It's like meditation because I'm so into the moment, you really have to feel the subtleness in the ocean, when you catch the wave. Pure happiness, this feeling that you have when you are one with nature. Life is so much bigger than just to be a mother, a wife, go to work 9-5. Because I'm Turkish, I like warm summer the most. But in winter, when the sun shines or when it snows, the rough weather can also be very enjoyable."

Joacim Nyhaugen, 30, teacher

"Surfing is how I live my life. I decided to move here to be around waves and the mountains and have the opportunity to do it everyday when I'm not working. The special thing about Lofoten is you can also ski and snowboard, and surf on the same day, how beautiful is that. There aren't that many people in the lineup in the water, compared to warm places. The best surfing here is around October, and November, when the water is slightly warmer and there are a lot of storms out in the ocean, which bring a lot of waves up here. It starts to get dark so we get beautiful, long sunsets and we can surf until 11 in the evening. I've surfed in Portugal, south of France, Morocco, Bali, Sri Lanka., but after a while I always end up getting homesick. At the end of summer the sun doesnt set. we can surf 24 hours a day, that's a very special feeling, going out around midnight and when you're done at three there is still light outside.

Ole Kristian Fjelltun-Larsen, 34, coffee shop B&B owner

"The weather doesn't bother me that much. When it's warm, it's very different. Winter is more challenging, it's like an extreme form of meditation, with an extreme contact with nature. In winter, you get very tired physically, the body uses a lot of energy to keep warm, but your head gets really relaxed, you forget about stuff, you calm down and big problems become smaller problems. The feeling when you're done is really good."

Myrtille Heissat, 26, surf instructor

"Cold is better, I love the feeling of putting my wetsuit on, in spots where there is nobody out, it's more peaceful than summer and warm spots like Costa Rica, where you can surf three times a day or more but there are so many people in the water that it is not relaxing. Here most of us surf once a day only because your wetsuit is still wet and cold, have you tried to put back a cold and wet wetsuit by – 8°C?"

Haege Cecilie Forfang, 28, physical therapist

"Surfing for me is a way to explore nature and sit in the water, watch as the seasons change, from the midnight sun to the cold and dark winter. I came here from my job from Stavanger (south-west of Norway), I was supposed to spend three months and I've been here five years. I'm not going back. In winter, surfing doesn't seem like the thing to do but we still want to do it because it's so good. The water isn't that cold, the changing part is the coldest part. Being out there, it surprises me every time, it's not that hard and not that cold. Only your face is freezing but it's still a good feeling, you're alive!"

Nils Blom, 38, Chef

"Surfing for me was following a dream as a boy, after watching Point Break when I was maybe 10 years old. To me it was very exotic, I grew up in the countryside of Sweden. I was always skateboarding and snowboarding and I said to myself "One day I'm going to surf". When I finished school, I went abroad and started surf and then I realized there are good waves in Sweden and in Norway. I got addicted and now I enjoy surfing in cold water and the lifestyle that comes with it, not so many people in the water and more relaxed."

Nils Nilsen, 26, an employee in a fishing factory

"Surfing to me is peace of mind, quiet inside my head. One focus, that's it. Of course it's challenging yourself, I guess. Whatever the season, if I have the time, I'm in the water. I have been to Portugal a couple of times, up and down the coast."

Eddie Siswanto, Bali, 30, handyman

"I started surfing when I was 17 in Bali, following a long period of skateboard, I met a Norwegian girl and moved to Norway, the exact opposite to Bali, from a tropical country to an Arctic country! The waves are exactly the same as in Bali, the water temperature is just 25°C less in winter time. The wetsuit, thick boots and gloves, change the touch of your board because in Bali you surf in a bathing suit all year long. Now I'm used to it but I am still happy to surf barefoot at summer time, with an integral wetsuit on, because water temp is 14-15C max, but I feel more at home..."

Nicole Kaminski, 27, Australian, seasoner in Lofoten for a year

"Surfing is just about having fun for me, I don't take it too seriously. I don't think I'll ever own a short board, I will always be on a foamy because I don't care about the performance so much. It just makes me happy being in the water. I surf a lot more here thant I did back home in Australia. You get used to the cold, just like you get used to warm water. I don't think I'll ever complain about cold water at home, 18 degrees is not cold. I'll never forget Unstad when I go home one day. It's so beautiful, there's no other place like it."

ALL PHOTOS BY AFP / OLIVIER MORIN

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