Surfing in Lofoten
Lifelong memories in unique nature
Cold water surfing in Lofoten is a wonderful nature-based experience, so head out and catch the wave!
Imagine you are standing there on the beach. You can see snow on the mountain tops, the air temperature is only five or six degrees, and the waves are rolling towards you. Even though you are north of the Arctic Circle, you are about to go surfing. That’s exotic!
Surfing in such a cold place is a sort of paradox. However, as soon as you get your wetsuit on, you are protected from the cold – well almost at any rate. When you jump out into the sea with your board and dive underwater, you will feel the cold water pushing against your face. You will soon forget about that because the sense of achievement you get from catching a wave in this landscape is enormous. The mountains rise from the sea and high into the air and, if you are lucky, you may see a white-tail eagle flying past the line-up.
As you get out of the water, we promise that you will have a huge smile on your face.
Summer and winter
Far out at sea, you will discover the Lofoten archipelago like an arm from the mainland. The storms in the Norwegian Sea hit the coast at regular intervals, which produces good surfing waves.
In the late 90s, surging became possible – in Lofoten too. As the wetsuit technology evolved, we could spend much longer in the cold water so far north. Now, 30 years later, you will encounter a teeming surf environment in Lofoten – with everything from surf accommodation and cafés to surfing shops and certified coaches.
The peak season for surfing in Lofoten stretches from autumn to spring. The arrival of the autumn storms marks the start of the bigger waves. The most powerful swells from the Norwegian Sea come towards the Lofoten coast in the period from September to April. This attracts more experienced surfers from all over the world. They are keen to experience cold water surfing and enjoy the luxury of sharing the waves with fewer surfers than is often the case at beaches in tropical destinations.
There is generally a longer wait between the biggest swells here from spring to autumn, meaning summer in Lofoten is a perfect time for beginners. The waves are generally smaller and less powerful, the water temperature is higher, and the golden rays of the Midnight Sun allow you to surf all night. Summer in Lofoten is magical!
Cold water surfing
Surfing the middle of the winter is exotic. The air temperature is below freezing, there is snow on the ground, and it can be down to 4-5 °C in the water. Yes, it certainly can be cold, but if you take a few precautions, you are assured of a great experience.
The most important precaution is to ensure you have the right gear. Your wetsuit should be 6/5 mm thick, while your gloves and booties should be 7 mm. The surf schools and the rental outlets in Lofoten can provide you with what you need.
The key to a successful and warm session in the middle of the winter is often when you change into your wetsuit. If you are already cold at this stage, warming up again can be difficult. Ensure you get changed in a warm place, either inside or in a heated car. If this is not possible, you can warm up by jogging, doing some burpies and staying active.
The surf beaches in Lofoten – Unstad and Flakstad
The best-known surfing spot in Lofoten is Unstad. Once home to around 200 people, this tiny settlement now has a population of less than 20. Nevertheless, you will find a teeming surf environment here. Unstad Arctic Surf offers accommodation, excellent local food and the world’s best cinnamon rolls!
When you reach the end of the road at Unstad, you will be greeted by a long sandy beach flanked by a right and left pointbreak with a stony bottom. In the summertime, Unstad generally offers gentle and beginner-friendly waves. However, when autumn arrives, this bay produces some of the best waves in Northern Europe.
Lofoten’s other surf destination, Flakstad, is just west of Unstad. The sandy beach here is perfect for beginners and intermediate level surfers, and the waves are often a bit smaller than at Unstad. The Lofoten Beach Camp at Flakstad offers a surf school, accommodation and good food at its new restaurant, while in the summertime Flakstad is a popular place to experience the Midnight Sun.
Surf courses in Lofoten? / Are you a beginner?
If you are keen to try surfing, we recommend signing up for a surfing course. The courses offered by our providers will give you an introduction to the sport, surfing etiquette and technique. You enter the water with a certified surf coach who will follow you closely to ensure quick progression. The surf coaches ensure you head out when the waves and weather are most suitable – regardless of which season you visit.
Unstad Arctic Surf
At Unstad Arctic Surf, you can eat at the café or restaurant and stay overnight. They also offer rentals and run a surf school. You can book a course here – either alone or with your family or friends. When you return from surfing, you can warm up with a session in the sauna.
Lofoten Beach Camp
The Lofoten Beach Camp at Flakstad has just opened the Lofoten Beach Bar. This is the place to camp, surf and enjoy delicious food. Lofoten Beach Camp offers rentals and surfing courses.
Need to rent surfing gear?
Surf etiquette – Simple rules for surfers
- RIGHT OF WAY – The fundamental rule in surfing tells us that the surfer closest to the peak always gets priority. In other words, if you’re paddling for a right-hand wave, and a fellow surfer is on your left shoulder, you must give priority to him or her. It can be very annoying and dangerous when you go for the wave as well because with a sharp turn he or she can surf into you. For a split peak, two surfers have the right of way but they are expected to go different directions
- DON’T DROP IN – In surfing, the general rule of thumb is one surfer – one wave. In most cases, you can’t have two surfers riding the same wave in the same direction. When you disrespect the right-of-way rule, you’re “taking” someone’s wave and with this, you are not showing respect to another surfer. You are actually ruining a wave for someone else, who also enjoys surfing like you are.Dropping in may result in severe injuries and damaged surfboards, so don’t do to others what you wouldn’t want to be done to yourself.
- DON’T SNAKE – Snaking is a very common and disrespectful behavior that can be seen, especially in crowded lineups. Paddling around one or more surfers to get closer to the peak and gain priority is rude behavior. Select the best position in the line-up, and do not paddle around other surfers. Be patient. There are waves for everyone.
- DO NOT THROW YOUR BOARD – This is an important rule, especially for beginners. Sometimes it looks really easy to just jump off your board and dive under a big wave that is breaking in front of you. Don’t do this! This can be very dangerous because there is no control over your board anymore and it can hit anyone that’s close to you. With longboards, it’s impossible to duck dive, so make sure that your instructor teaches you how to do the eskimo roll. The faster you get used to this the better!
- DO NOT DIVE HEAD FIRST – Whether you’re surfing over reef or sand, do know that the ocean floor can severely hurt your body. Try to use your surfboard to protect the impact and protect your head with your arms whenever you fall off the board or wipe out.
- COMMUNICATE – In case two surfers are sitting in the middle of the peak, and the wave opens to both sides in an A-frame wave, they should tell each other whether they’re going right or left. Like this, both of you can enjoy your ride down the line without wasting what the wave had to offer.
- DON’T GET IN THE WAY – Paddle wide, not through the peak, and stay in the water if you got caught inside and a surfer is enjoying his surf line.
- DON’T CATCH ALL THE WAVES – Don’t catch all the waves. This can be very annoying for other surfers because everyone wants to catch a wave. So be patients! There will be enough waves for everyone, don’t catch all the waves because you can.
- KNOW YOUR LIMITS – If you’re just starting in extreme surfing conditions, don’t get into them before you’re ready, for your good and that of all the surfers. Do not go to a very busy surfing spot, but take a class in a surf camp or surf school, practice on the beach, first, and away from swimmers. And if you are an experienced surfer don’t put the less experienced at risk, performing dangerous maneuvers.
- INSTRUCT BEGINNERS – If you find yourself with a beginner who doesn’t yet know the ‘Surf rules’, try to help him/her and explain in a kind and friendly way at least 3 or 4 of these basic rules. You can be sure they will be thankful for your help.
- RESPECT THE BEACH AND THE OCEAN – Another important rule of the surf etiquette is to respect the beach and the ocean. Never leave garbage in the sand, beach, and water.Whenever possible, pick up a couple of plastic bags, bottles, or other garbage items after you conclude your surf session.
- RESPECT OTHER SURFERS, HAVE FUN AND ENJOY! – Surfing is a great sport and it’s essential to maintain friendly behavior while surfing. If you’re one of the ‘local surfers’ try to leave a wave to someone else every day of surfing; it doesn’t cost you much and it’s the best way to make friends. Offer your help to those who are starting. Respect the basic rules and the surf etiquette, have fun, enjoy surfing and let the rest do that too!
Unstad Arctic Surf
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