On the Edge of the Arctic Circle with Tanner and Dane Gudauskas

Craig Murch

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Updated 194d ago

The Gudauskas brothers of San Clemente, California are of course, well-versed travellers. The trio seek throughout the warmest of tropical waters for waves and right down to lineups littered with ice bergs. But, to state the obvious, there's always somewhere else, somewhere the water's near untouched and there are new waves just waiting to be discovered.

And that's the inspiration for EARTH—a new film starring Tanner and Dane wandering Iceland's cold, extreme coastline. Anyway, hit play and then allow Tanner to tell you the intricacies of the brothers' journey below.

MSW: You've surfed in Iceland before (I'm thinking Down Days) but this was a lot more off the track and into the unknown—how long did you spend camping and what was that experience like?
Tanner: We have surfed in Iceland before—I believe Dane and I have both been twice. Dane had done a trip with more exploration, that was how he originally met Elli. The footage is in the original Outerspace movie, it was a snowy session for him. That was the first trip that seeded the thought of us wanting to go back and link up with Elli and explore some new terrain in the extreme cold. This was closer to the arctic circle, and we really wanted to camp along the trip. When Dane and I where talking about it we wanted to learn how to make igloos! [laughs] We were YouTubing camping in the snow and how to make igloo (Inuit) tents.
Sleeping in the valley at night was very surreal. It came alive with light of the stars.
Anyway, Elli had taken tour groups to camp in the snow before and he had a bigger host tent that he brought with him as well. I think for us, the element of doing something unknown is really fun and surfing is the reason we get to push into these areas that are so different. We camped for about a week in the fjord valley that we had to snowmobile into. The weather was warmer than anticipated because it wasn't snowing. It was still absolutely freezing though. Being prepared with the right equipment and the right crew is very important when doing a trip where the elements you are dealing with can become life-threatening. We would wear layers of wool under all of our clothes and had really good sleeping bags. Sleeping in the valley at night was very surreal. It came alive with light of the stars.

Lining up conditions and being in the right place at the right time sounds difficult to say the least—did you spend a lot time spent trekking back and forth between potential spots? And how valuable was the knowledge of Heidar and Elli for this?
We spent about half the trip in that one specific fjord valley and the other half exploring into some new areas that Elli had heard about. As the crow flys, the distance we were travelling was very small, however, the terrain of the fjords zigs-zags back and forth and it can take a long time to see what is around the next point. I remember coming to the tip of one specific fjord headland that looked like something you would see in Chile. It had left point after left point on it. Very scenic. We ended up surfing one of the points and some of the footage was in the movie. But the swell disintegrated too fast and we were never able to see it at its full potential.
Dane got out to head back to the car, and on his way found this right as the tide had filled in. It was directly in front of our car.
This was my first time meeting Elli and Heidar—they are the best combo. It was non-stop laughs and story time. They really made the trip become what it was. Elli is extremely knowledgeable about that area and loves exploring to find something new. Heidar is comedy—he was so fun to surf with, his energy was keeping our spirits high when we were freezing our asses off! [laughs]

And, tell us a bit about scoring that last session?
The last session was when we were driving back to Reykjavik to end our trip. We hadn't really scored a session up to that point where we felt like Iceland has shown off its magic to us. Elli decided to drive a scenic route back to town to check out an area that he heard had wave potential. The conditions that day had been extreme wind in the onshore direction with massive surf, or offshore of equal strength with lake-like surf. As we drove into the corner of that peninsula we started to see tails off the back of waves that tripled the wave size.

The recipe had come together and the surf was well overhead with the offshore winds we had been seeing. However, when we first suited up and paddled out we surfed about 200 yards down the beach on a soft left. We were having fun, but still, it wasn't quite was we were hoping for. Dane got out to head back to the car and on his way found the right, (that was in the movie) as the tide had filled in. It was directly in front of our car. We were hooting and hollering and actually couldn't believe our luck. We paddled out and surfed 'till dark.

I remember Heidar getting a really nice barrel and having the most pure hoot of joy afterwards. He ended up surfing into complete dark he was so fired up on the conditions. Afterwards, we loaded the gear back onto the car and drove straight to Reykjavik with the biggest smiles on our faces. We could not believe how lucky we were. Either way, the trip was still going to be an amazing journey but it was beautiful to see Iceland come alive and respect the difficulty of finding what we had just found.

Craig Murch

MSW Content Editor