An Arctic Aloha – Surfing Under The Northern Lights: Unstad, Norway
When I went to Unstad this past June, I did not know what I would find, or, when I arrived there, how it would affect me. A little back story: I was born and grew up in a surf culture in Southern California, and knew early about San Onofre, Windansea, and other, more secret surfing areas, all that had perfect Point Breaks, tubes and curls – waves that you could surf forever. And, I knew many of those Endless Summer surfers, many now gone, many now retired insurance agents.
My surfing past, almost forgotten, defined another past-is-prologue travel experience.
Here I was at Unstad — a distant area – not really a town – the permanent population is 13. Unstad lies a 68 degree latitude, and is north of Iceland and the Arctic Circle. It is in the Lofoten islands, an archipelago in Arctic Norway. Unstad is on the island of Austvågøy, the third principal island in the Lofoten chain, on the tip of the Western coast of Norway.
Finally seeing the beach and the Arctic ocean beyond, I KNEW why many surfers from all over the world are drawn to this place, and, like me, are rewarded with some of the best surfing in the world. But wait there’s more…Because at Unstad, you can surf in Summer by the midnight sun and in Winter, by the Northern Lights. And there are many surfers who indeed wait for the frigid, winter darkness to have that Bucket List experience of surfing at Unstad under the shimmer of the Northern Lights.
Unstad has a purity of the still undiscovered place, where surfers can breathe the tonic of ocean wildness. The waves are almost perfect point breaks, long, high peeling waves found near coast with a curving bay nearby. Unstad has been inhabited by Vikings and Samis since the Iron Age. But it is still far from the madding crowd. From Oslo, you can take a plane to Leknes, and from there drive to Unstad, an hour away, or drive six or more hours from Tromso. Other options are defined on their website.
Even though it is far from anywhere, many surfers know this place, travel here, and stay at Unstad Arctic Surf, a lodging that Marion Franzen, and her husband Tommy, manage. There are cabins, a shared kitchen, a large outdoor hot-tub, a sauna and a small restaurant. Worth the trip – but bring warm clothes. Unstad Arctic Surf have the wetsuits.