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Surfing Freezing Waters North of the Arctic Circle with Leon Glatzer

Located north of Iceland and the Arctic Circle, tucked tightly in the frigid waters of the Norwegian Sea, lay Norway's Lofoten Islands. Known for excellent fishing, spectacular nature views (e.g., Northern Lights), the midnight sun, and Unstad, where it's not surprising when the air temperature is in the low 30s and the water temperature hovers around a mere 40 degrees. The quaint, small fisherman's village of Unstad is also home to one of Norway's best surfing spots. And even with the chilling temperatures, Unstad sees surfers from around the world showing up to surf the uncrowded waves, explore the region, and during the summer months, even have the opportunity to go for a midnight surf!

This all sounded much-too-appealing to 20-year-old Costa Rican surfer Leon Glatzer when he had the opportunity to visit the northern islands of Norway. Leon, who ventured to Unstad to shoot a G-Shock commercial, said this trip was "nothing like I have ever experienced." A far departure from his tropical home in Central America where he doesn't need to wear a wetsuit, Leon had to pack thick fullsuits, booties, gloves, and head gear to battle Norway's freezing temperatures. Dive into this Q&A and photo feature below with Leon to hear first-hand about his experiences and favorite memories from his trip.


Q&A with Leon Glatzer


 

How did you hear about this opportunity?
Greg Martin (Friday Media Management ) gave me a call asking if I wanted to go to Norway for a G-Shock shoot. I couldn't believe it. Norway? That must be freezing! So I jumped on the opportunity right away.

Did you guys wait for a swell before going or did there happen to be waves when you arrived?
We waited for almost two months for the perfect swell and weather. It was a long two months because I wanted to go right away, but it's good that we waited because the waves were firing and the conditions were perfect.

What was it like traveling to Norway?
It was a really long journey to get there. We had to take four different flights due to the location we wanted to reach, which was the north part of Norway. Flying over all the mountains covered in thick snow and ice blocks floating in the water was one of the most amazing visions for me especially coming from Costa Rica. I questioned myself: what have I got myself into?

What gear did you have to pack for this trip and surfing in the snowy conditions?
I packed loads of socks and gloves. Also, waterproof pants, jackets, and boots (which had to be waterproofed). Wetsuit thickness was a 5/4, but I had three of them so I could put a dry one on every session.

How were the waves, water temp, locals, etc.?
The waves were pumping 4-7 foot, perfect glassy lefts with light offshore winds. Water temperature was 36 degrees, pretty much freezing temperature. There was one or two locals that I surfed with and they really nice people and were super stoked that I was there. It's a really small surfing scene, which is cool. The place I surfed is called Unstad and is pretty much all rocks on the bottom and no sand until you get to the beach.

What was the town like?
The town was small and intimate, and a complete fishermen town. Super friendly people everywhere and always reaching out to you for a conversation. It was nice talking with different people and sharing the reason for my trip and hearing their stories and the history of the town.

Any interesting food or cool local spots?
The food was amazing. We ate whale stew almost every day. There wasn't really any local spots or localism because the town was so small, which was a breath of fresh air. Every place was a local spot!

What was your favorite part of the trip?
My favorite part of the trip was the first day I woke up and had no idea how the waves were going to be. We pulled up to the spot and it was absolutely firing. Surfed for four hours straight. After four hours, I basically had to crawl to the car because my feet were completely frozen and I couldn't walk at all. I finally arrived to the car and the crew started laughing their asses off at me!

 

Photos by Hallvard Kolltveit
Words by Leon

leon glatzer norway volcom surf photo by hallvard kolltveit

Waiting for the fishing boats to deliver the goods.

leon glatzer norway volcom surf photo by hallvard kolltveit

Late afternoon walk to search for more waves.

leon glatzer norway volcom surf photo by hallvard kolltveit

Watching the sun slowly coming up and touching the cliff, filling the freezing habitat (including myself) with some warmth!

leon glatzer norway volcom surf photo by hallvard kolltveit

Tried to catch as many waves as I could in order to keep my body temp up, and of course, enjoy the experience. I can only imagine how cold the water photographer must have been. Sorry, dude!

leon glatzer norway volcom surf photo by hallvard kolltveit

It was so nice to stay in this mystic town with the fresh smell of fish every morning! The locals said they don't even notice the smell anymore, but to us tourists, the smell was strong.

leon glatzer norway volcom surf photo by hallvard kolltveit

My face is completely frozen. The photographer said smile, but it was impossible.

leon glatzer norway volcom surf photo by hallvard kolltveit

Simple air right in front of the only forest located in Unstad.

leon glatzer norway volcom surf photo by hallvard kolltveit

Such a surreal vision watching a perfect left peeling next to a hefty mountain covered in snow. Nothing like I have ever experienced.

leon glatzer norway volcom surf photo by hallvard kolltveit

Sunset, nicest time of the day in Norway. The way the light goes in between the mountains makes the colors so fascinating.

leon glatzer norway volcom surf photo by hallvard kolltveit

The water is as dense as a river, and as cold, too!

leon glatzer norway volcom surf photo by hallvard kolltveit

One of the coolest fishing towns in the world, despite the cold, the fishermen have the biggest smiles on their faces.

leon glatzer norway volcom surf photo by hallvard kolltveit

All this rubber makes me feel like I'm wearing the Iron Man suit. Ready for anything!

leon glatzer norway volcom surf photo by hallvard kolltveit

This silent and deserted location gives you an opposite receptivity. Feels like there is a big mass surrounding you.

leon glatzer norway volcom surf photo by hallvard kolltveit

Being from the tropics, this is the most unbelievable view I have ever seen.

leon glatzer norway volcom surf photo by hallvard kolltveit

This picture says it all: team work!

leon glatzer norway volcom surf photo by hallvard kolltveit

Wishing the walk back to the hot shower wasn't this long!

leon glatzer norway volcom surf photo by hallvard kolltveit

Only this you see in Norway.

leon glatzer norway volcom surf photo by hallvard kolltveit

Fire in the sky!

leon glatzer norway volcom surf photo by hallvard kolltveit

The only road you never get bored of. Every route, every corner, every curve you take, there will always be a smile on your face.

leon glatzer norway volcom surf photo by hallvard kolltveit

Mass energy, forms, and colors floating above. I thought it only existed in the movies.

leon glatzer norway volcom surf photo by hallvard kolltveit

Coldest and most challenging paddle anyone will ever experience.

leon glatzer norway volcom surf photo by hallvard kolltveit

Battling with three inch snow covering my board.

leon glatzer norway volcom surf photo by hallvard kolltveit

Exploring has no end in this world.

leon glatzer norway volcom surf photo by hallvard kolltveit

In freezing water temperatures you find obstacles like this!

leon glatzer norway volcom surf photo by hallvard kolltveit

Every mountain I saw I wanted to snowboard from the top into the sea.

leon glatzer norway volcom surf photo by hallvard kolltveit

In the Arctic, we walk to the surf in knee-deep snow instead of sand. Until next time, Norway!

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