All photos by Gareth Costello unless stated
Dianne Ripoll, the Scottish surfer, who first bleeped on our radar in Allyn Harper’s lovely short film Through the Whisky Barrel is no stranger to surfing in freakishly cold conditions.
But, as she tells us in this photo story, her recent trip to Iceland took things to a whole new level…
It’s reading minus 18 degrees C in the car and I’m about to slip into my 6mm O’Neill Pyrotech. It’s my usual winter weather routine – extra cold water wax, 7mm boots, gloves and hood, but this time I’m not in my usual spot at Thurso East, this time I’m in Iceland.
There is a couple of inches of snow on the ground and I can see I need to cross an estuary before I can reach the break. There is a short left hand peak breaking beyond this with a stiff offshore wind and a snow blizzard brewing. Am I really going to paddle out in this? Of course I am. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from surfing in extreme conditions, it’s that is usually pays off.
Navigating through the ice filled estuary was a bit of a mission but I’m finally out the back – looking back all I can see is the snow topped mountains of vastness. It’s truly beautiful and so remote. I’m absolutely freezing after wading through the ice but I manage to catch a couple of short but fun lefts. It’s empty and I can imagine this spot being epic in the right conditions. The stiff offshore wind is making it difficult to paddle into and with my face feeling like it’s not attached to my body anymore, I think it’s time to catch one back in.
As I reach the car, I can barely feel my feet or hands and the wind has picked up significantly. With only 5 hours of daylight in Iceland at this time there’s not even a chance to head to the next spot. All I can think of right now is a hot bath.
Driving back to the house in Eyrarbaki it is starting to get dark. The roads are narrow, snowy and icy. If I thought driving in Scotland in the winter was a mission, I was wrong! The climate is so harsh but the beauty that surrounds this peaceful island is incredible. As I drive into the night, I’m aware of cars stopped at the side of the roads. Looking up I can see the Northern Lights – clear as day. Dancing in the sky, so green and majestic. I’ve seen the Northern Lights up in Thurso before but never like this. It’s stunning.
Before I know it, it’s time to head home. Two nights just is not long enough in this beautiful place. Next time I’ll be back for longer to experience all that Iceland has to offer – countless point breaks, the glaciers and some hot springs.
Flying out of Reykjavik, there is so much coastline to explore and lines, so many lines. It’s driving me crazy – I wish I could have stayed longer. All I can think is that this whirlwind of a 2 night trip has been one of the best I’ve had.