The Lofoten Islands
The beautifully rugged archipelago sits just 2 degrees north of the arctic circle, surrounded by clear, frigid waters. Its snow-capped peaks rise up hundreds of feet from the shores of the Atlantic while waves crash against the granite cliffs. The weather is harsh and unpredictable as the dark, cold winter turns into the eternal light of summer.
Gale force winds whip violently over the crags and through the valleys. When the gusts are at full force, cars are flipped and roofs are torn off of houses. Rain flies sideways with the wind, intermittently pouring down from the dark clouds above and pelting my face with an acute stinging sensation. Every drop with the ultimate mission of hitting my eye and blinding me for a brief second. Yet, when the skies clear and the winds cease their relentless assault, the islands boast some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the world.
When the sun peaks out from behind the clouds and casts its rays down on the islands, the wet rocks glow with a faint gold shimmer and the once angry ocean calms as it turns to glass. Down in the valleys, livestock grazes on the moss and grass that were covered by a blanket of white all winter long. The longer days and warmer weather fill every inch of the wild islands with a fresh aura of life and vitality. Birds chirp as they fly about, locals leave their homes in search of adventure, and somehow I found myself in the middle of the phenomena staring at frosty waves.
It was still early morning as I stood on the snow-covered shore staring at an empty lineup. The tide was dropping, the wind was howling offshore, and the waves were dismal. I decided the waves weren’t worth braving the freezing water and bitter winds, coffee and a plate of eggs and potatoes sounded much better. Besides, I needed the fuel if I wanted to surf my best. As I sat and ate my breakfast I watched the live stream of Unstad, the surf spot less than a ten-minute walk from my cabin featuring a long sloping left that rarely breaks, a beach break much like those found back home in San Diego, and a right that breaks close to a rocky shoreline.
By the time I was finished eating I could tell that the right had picked up and that the swell was starting to fill in so I decided to suit up and go for a surf. It was tough getting my wetsuit on that morning, it isn’t an easy task sliding into 5mm of neoprene, especially when I’m stiff from days of surfing and hiking. Alas, I got into my suit, pulled my hood over my head, smeared a layer of Vaseline across my cheeks, and trotted down to the beach. As the break came into view I could tell it was going to be a fun session, the live video stream didn’t do it any justice. I watched a set roll through, one wave after another, each about head high and peeling off the rocks. The best part of it all was that there were only four other surfers out, if I had been in San Diego there would have at least been 20 other surfers in the water, but probably 50 since it was Sunday.
Getting out to the wave was tricky because it broke so close to the rocks. I had to time it right so that I didn’t get washed back onto the rocks, but of course, I didn’t and I took a nice beating before finally making it out past the break.
The wave was breaking fast and I was as nervous as I was excited. It had been over four months since I surfed a wave like that and it’s difficult to jump back into the swing of things after such a long hiatus. After a few wipeouts and missed opportunities, I finally caught one and it was a good one. I took off early and had time to get to my feet before the wave really got going and as I pumped down the line I could see the rocky shoreline to the left and the jagged peaks above. It was a view unlike any other.
I surfed for as long as I could and when I finally got out I had a sore back and a good case of noodle arms. I made my way back to the cabin to change and get some lunch, then it was on to the next adventure. I had heard about a lighthouse not too far from camp and I decided I should go find it. So after eating I set out in search of the fabled lighthouse.
I followed a trail passed the right that I surfed earlier that morning up onto the side of the cliffs. The trail was stunning, it wound along the side of the cliffs and into oblivion. The icy ocean lay below and the menacing cliffs rose above. I walked slowly for fear of slipping on some of the remaining ice and snow and plummeting into the Atlantic. The trail meandered along the cliffs for about a mile before I saw the lighthouse and when I finally made it to my destination I was completely underwhelmed. However, it didn’t matter because the path to the lighthouse made up for what the lighthouse lacked in magnificence. It’s like that old cliché saying, “Life is not about the destination, it’s about the journey.”
On my way back from the lighthouse the winds grew strong and it began to rain. The conditions grew worse and worse as time passed and many droplets achieved their mission of poking me in the eye. By the time I made it back to camp I was soaking wet and utterly exhausted. The wind was so strong and so fierce that I had to pry my door open just to get inside the cabin. Once inside I stripped down to my long johns and plopped myself on the couch. All I wanted to do was lie there and listen to the rain patter on the roof and the wind rattle the old wooden walls.
Around eight O’clock my cabin mate burst through the door full of excitement and telling me I was missing it. At first, I had no clue what she was talking about, but then I looked out the window and saw the most amazing sunset I have ever seen. I was awestruck. It had been cloudy all weekend and I didn’t expect the sun to put on such a brilliant display of color. The sun hung over the horizon painting the sky bright yellows, and deep blues. There could not have been a more perfect ending to my Easter.
***If you don’t like reading watch my video here (https://youtu.be/AsESOPE_Gco)