Abhorrent as the thought of surfing in desolate Iceland may be, the reality is that this island can serve up some wintertime juice. Long gray beaches, unstable weather, frigid water and freaky fish are only a few drawbacks local surfers must face on a daily basis. In southwestern Iceland several miles of beach and rock breaks play host to a cadre of NATO affiliated surfers, occasionally joined by the odd traveler. There are also scattered local crews of adventurous Icelandic watermen who know the local breaks intimately. Recently, while working on the Clint Eastwood / Steven Spielberg film “Flags of our Fathers,” a depiction of the landing at Iwo Jima during WWII, a small crew of stuntmen, film specialists and NATO affiliates searched every nook and cranny on the coastline for a decent wave.
The search along Iceland’s southwestern coast was led by NATO officials Jeremiah Ordway, Duane Thompson and Herb Silio who hooked up film crew members Sam Reynolds, Mark Vollmer and Malibu surf shop owner Jay Wagner with gear and local knowledge. The surfing in Iceland can vary dramatically hour to hour thanks to extreme tides and sensitive weather, but a good quality search can yield classic un-crowded waves. An added kick is crystal clear water with black sand and rock bottom, and summer sunlight that lasts 24 hours a day May through July. The wind also tends to be blowing offshore somewhere, as the coastline winds through peninsulas and rocky outcrops.
Iceland is a beautiful country of open spaces, mountains, glaciers, waterfalls and partying; plenty of adventure to be had when the surf goes flat. But as far as surfing is concerned Iceland can get good, it just takes a little effort.
Beach Field Notes – Courtesy of NATO Correspondent Herb Silio
Thorlakshofn: Handles substantial swell for a steep and potentially lengthy right. Optimal winds SW. This wave wraps around a point with strong currents and cobblestone hazards.
Grindavik: Three main areas around this fishing town.
The “Inner Harbor” is a sweet left, best surfed at high tide due to rocks. Optimal winds are NE-E-SE and the swell needs to be over 6 feet to get in there.
“Grindavik point,” is a spot can crank up a really long right. Requires at least a 5 foot swell. The place can get gnarly, watch the rocks
“Grindavik Golf Course” Delivers a very consistent left with E-NE-N winds and a large swell (6-8 feet). This wave sneaks around a rocky outcropping and rolls into a tiny bay
Sandvik: Best on a low tide, winds from the NE-E-SE, and a swell less than 6 feet. Beach break that closes out easily.
Sangerdi Coast: Best surf when the winds are NE-E-SE and the swell is bigger. Lefts and rights depending on the swell.
Gardur: Right at the tip of the peninsula, where two pretty lighthouses stand, one can do some fun surfing on the east side of the peninsula when there’s a monster swell coming from the west and winds are S or SSW. Best on a low tide.
Full Moon Bay: To make this spot work you need SW-S-SE winds and a sizeable west swell making it’s way into “Flaxafloi bay.” Spot was named for the proximity to a highway resulting in surfers often exposing themselves to oncoming motorists.
• 5-4 Wetsuit for maximum comfort in the wintertime with 5 mil booties, gloves
• A 4-3 wetsuit for the summer