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From Monochrome to Colour: Redefining My Cold Water Surfing Experience

There is something truly unique about surfing in the cold: the excitement of knowing a winter storm is rolling in, the heaviness of the neoprene as you first put on your wetsuit, the anxiety of watching frigid big waves roll in, that feeling of time stopping as you’re going in the water and it starts snowing, and ultimately the joy of being in the surf as the sun peeks through the wintery clouds. Growing up, I was fascinated by Chris Burkard’s Distant Shore and Mickey Smith’s Dark Side of the Lens. Their work captured the essence of winter surfing: pure dedication and the need to step out of one’s comfort zone to embrace the cold water surfing experience.

Back in 2018, I wanted to travel with some surfing friends to a cold water surfing haven in the winter and take photos that would illustrate the freezing surf experience. I imagined peeling waves in the foreground of a rugged landscape, the falling snow and surfers in neoprene. All in monochrome. Many articles I found about winter surfing focused on people visiting a country to go surf, but not much was said about the area’s local surfers, their day-to-day stories and dedication to surfing. I felt this would be a great opportunity for me to capture and showcase the true essence of a cold water surfing community – and this became my goal. I was going to travel to a new place to discover and document local surfers through a monochrome photo series.

I was going to travel to a new place to discover and document local surfers through a monochrome photo series.

That’s when I got in touch with Terri, a web designer and surfer from the UK. We had previously collaborated on a surf article and she had just relocated to Arctic Norway. She told me how she found this great co-working space, where she stayed and worked from: the Arctic Coworking Lodge in the Lofoten Islands. She told me that the crew there consisted of very dedicated Norwegian surfers, who built the lodge to bring business to the area and be able to surf some of the best Norwegian breaks all year round. She also informed me that there would be the Lofoten Surf Masters, the world’s most northern surf contest, coming up soon and it would be a great time to go and experience the surf scene in that community.

Terri connected me with Stian Morel and Rolf Oftedal, the founders of the Arctic Coworking Lodge. As soon as I talked to Rolf and Stian, I was sold on travelling to Lofoten! They were super nice and easy going guys, very knowledgeable and super stoked to help me out and show me around. They told me that  the fall in Lofoten was beautiful: the landscapes are more colourful, there is more daylight and time available in the water, and the quality of waves is always great. Talking to them made me reconsider how I wanted to document things and I was so excited, I decided to fly out the next week! When I arrived and saw the beautiful colours they had told me about, I knew I had to change my plan of a monochrome series and shoot in colour.

During this trip, I was fortunate to be able to document Stian, Rolf and the Arctic Coworking Lodge crew as they surfed around Lofoten. The beautiful scenery, dynamic with fjords and the powerful Arctic sea, as well as the many cinnamon rolls and laughs I shared with my new friends, helped redefine the cold water surfing experience for me. I was mesmerized by all the colours, and the friendly and welcoming surf community of the Lofoten Islands and I can’t wait to go back.

To learn more about Arctic Coworking Lodge:

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