Discover one of the world’s top spots for winter surfing

In Norway’s remote Lofoten Islands, adventurers find epic waves, northern lights, and a commitment to conservation.

German surfers Aline Bock and Lena Stoffel brave the frigid waters off the hamlet of Unstad in Norway’s Lofoten archipelago.
Photograph by ANDREA FRAZZETTA

The Lofoten Islands are among the world’s most scenic and formidable destinations for winter surfing. Massive Arctic swells regularly hit the bay of Unstad, a tiny town with an outsize reputation. But surfing is not the archipelago’s only draw; adventurers also explore the hiking trails, fishing culture, and northern lights.

Enveloped by Arctic currents and narrow fjords, the Lofoten archipelago lures thrill seekers—including wintertime surfers. Riding the frigid waves here requires a dose of Norwegian indre kraft, or inner strength. In the past decade, technical advances in cold water attire have made it possible to spend much more time in normally numbing temperatures. “It’s just us, our surfboards, and the vastness of nature,” says German surfer Aline Bock. (This Norwegian concept of outdoor living could help us through the coronavirus winter.)

After surfing, stand-up paddleboarding, or hiking, adventurers can break their icy isolation by warming up to the centuries-old fishing culture that defines the islands. Among the weathered red rorbu cabins, racks of cod dry in the wind, providing the main ingredient for the local fish stew. Daylight is fleeting above the Arctic Circle in winter, which gives ample opportunity to chase the green swirls of the northern lights, especially around the villages of Reine and Svolvær.

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