One Week in Iceland

So we booked some flights. The only real advice we had about Iceland was from people at home saying that it is freezing, the beers cost 20 quid and you will need a surf guide if you wanna score waves.

I spent about eight hours on Google Earth and MSW checking all the options before we left, and with the chart felt happy enough that we might get lucky and find a few waves. But if not, who cared? There seemed to be a lot more on offer for Melanie Curran, Gary McCall, Darren Young and I (Andrew Mennie). Via Belfast and Edinburgh to Reykjavik, where we would hook up with our mate Ewan Hutton who we lived with in Australia a few years ago.

On the flight into Iceland, the view out the right hand side of the plane was of never-ending snow capped mountains and glaciers. Out to the left we could see swell lines wrapping around points and into bays on the south and west coast. After a quick raid of the airport duty free, we met Ewan, loaded our hire car and went to check out a few nearby spots. This quickly turned into a full on off-road session. We had a few close calls but Darren somehow managed to keep the 4X4 on its four wheels. We rolled into Reykjavik to find our accommodation at almost midnight and it was barely dark.

The next 2 days were spent exploring the coast around the Reykjanes Peninsula south of Reykjavik. The landscape reminded me of the Canaries (or the moon!), huge lava fields, smoke billowing out of cracks and holes, very little vegetation and very few cars on the road.

We scored a few fun surfs on a black sand beach on the west coast, the southern end of the beach had a pretty fun but wobbly left hander. This was were we first met the local surfers, a really friendly, frothing crew of guys who all surf good. One of them jokingly told me, “in Iceland, there is only one rule, you let me paddle past you, or I piss in your car.” Fair enough.

The swell was forecast to build and the wind to change on our third day, this was the day to score. We gambled and drove to a boulder point that we had spotted from the plane and pulled up to a completely empty lineup and car park. Head high, super fun rights were peeling down the point.

The swell was forecast to build and the wind to change on our third day, this was the day to score. We gambled and drove to a boulder point that we had spotted from the plane and pulled up to a completely empty lineup and car park. Head high, super fun rights were peeling down the point, light offshore, sunny and warm (about 14 degrees). This was not the Iceland that I had imagined. By the time we got into the water the locals showed up and we shared the waves on the point with them for about 6 hours till our arms fell off. One of the funnest surfs I have ever had. Everyone was buzzing.

The next two days were flat so we spent them checking out the jaw dropping landscape around the island. One day we spent around 10 hours in the car. We would plan to drive to a waterfall or glacier, work out how long it would take, and it would usually take about twice as long as it should, as every 10 minutes we would pull over to look at some other amazing sight en-route.

We spent a day hanging out in Reykjavik, the world's most northerly capital. It’s a really pretty, clean, little city with brightly coloured buildings and a backdrop of snow covered mountains. World class restaurants, shops and cafes fill the two main streets in the city centre. It seems that every bar has a Happy Hour which lasts all afternoon. This was all the encouragement we needed for a loose night out in the city.

With sore heads we made our way back to the point for our last day. It wasn't really 'doing it' but we jumped in for a few waves before packing up for the trip home.

Gary, who had initially planned the trip for his birthday, almost didn't board the flight home. He like many photographers had fallen in love with the fairytale island and it is easy to see why. We said goodbye to Ewan who was continuing his journey around Iceland solo, we headed home where it was flat and raining and somehow actually colder.

Words, Andrew Mennie
Photos and captions, Gary McCall