Life Lessons: The reality of surfing in too much rubber

 Words + Photos - Esker



It's funny when you see pictures of far flung coastlines in the upper latitudes of our world. Unless there is snow on the ground, or icicles hanging from wetsuits you can't always convey to people the utter depth of the cold. It's easy to forget as well when you're miles away dreaming of Arctic expeditions, but it soon hits you like a hammer on plate glass.

Watching perfect, but windy, lineups is par for the course. The piercing beauty of mid winter light in the Arctic even helps you psychologically overcome what lies ahead. Engine running, thermals on, heated seat turned up to eleven, life as a 'cold water' surfer has never been so easy.


Then you step out, all that heat is whipped away into the partial gale that rises over some ice cap or other. Exposed skin is bitingly cold, and the call of the heated seat is so so strong. In the boot is a cold wetsuit, boots and gloves. All in a barely unfrozen pool. The speed change makes it all happen in a blur and briefly, for a few minutes, you experience a slow rise in temperatures.

Board under arm you dance across a frosty reef, the coffee you necked has meant that just as you enter the water you are able to urinate into your suit for a blast of warmth as you stroke out into the frigid north Atlantic. Duck dives are palatable, but for every one your core temperature takes a knock. In the lineup your body temperature stabilises, only buffeted by the bitting breeze. Sets come and go, wave selection is everything. Each made wave means you get a clear run at another, every blown takeoff an energy and warmth sapping paddle back out. 

Sessions like this, whether they be in Iceland, Norway, Scotland or in the frigid North Sea, feed the soul. They build a deeper understanding with the environment around you, and allow for a sort of solitude you don't find in warmer climes. Do we suffer from a kind of deranged delusion that we are some kind of modern day explorers, or is it simply a yearning to surf less crowded waves? Either way cold or not we keep getting drawn back, again and again.

Small Gatherings