From Jæren in the south to the Lofoten Islands in the north, Norway is an exciting, relatively undiscovered surf destination. Not for long.
Norway is an increasingly popular ‘cold water’ surf destination. Consistent swell, fantastic scenery and pristine waters mean Norway is attracting more and more surfers, many of whom coming here in the hope of finding undiscovered waves and breaks along Norway’s notoriously long coastline.
Advances in wetsuit technology mean that it is now possible to surf in Norway year round, although the lack of light in winter, especially in the northern regions, cuts surfing down to a few hours a day – attracting only the most hardened surfers. For the rest, the season lasts from February to November: summer is most welcoming for beginners, while the late autumn and winter have more exciting conditions. So whether learning basic moves off the Jæren Coast in summer or storm riding in the Lofoten Islands in mid-winter – Norway has something for all surfers.
Learning to surf (Jæren near Stavanger)
The stretch of coastline along Jæren is an ideal spot to try the winds and waves of the North Sea. This area south of Stavanger offers surfing spots that range from easy and gentle beaches for beginners, to more demanding boulder rock points for more advanced surfers.
The beaches at Solastrand, Hellestø, Sele Point, Borestrand, Brusand and Ogna are particularly suited for those with less or no experience. Windsurfing and surf-kiting are also popular at Solastrand because of its relatively sheltered wave conditions even in strong winds (S-SW).
Stad: A hidden surfing paradise in Fjord Norway
Long considered a hidden surfing paradise, Stad in Sogn og Fjordane offers ideal conditions for those seeking good surf spots without the crowds. The best spot is Hoddevik, just 65 kilometres south of Ålesund. Here you will find clear waters framed by 300 metre tall mountains. In August and late September, as serious waves start making their appearance, water temperatures still average a pleasant 18 degrees Celsius. Few foreigners have traditionally come to “Stadlandet” as this stretch of the Norwegian West Coast is called, but this is beginning to change as more and more discover the joys of surfing here.
Arctic surfing in the Lofoten
Touted as one of the best places on earth to surf in cold water, the Lofoten Islands in Northern Norway offer world-class waves and wild nature. Although there are many other good surfing spots, Unstad is the best known location in the archipelago – it gets waves almost every day of the year. Quite a contrast from crowded surfing beaches elsewhere in the world, the Lofoten Islands are particularly suited for surfers who love the great outdoors – where else can you surf alone with only a seal, a porpoise or a sea eagle for company? The midnight sun in summer means round the clock surfing is possible on good days, with surfers never missing the peak of a swell, which can often occur at night.
Surf and snow
Many board sport enthusiasts like trying their moves on both water and snow, and Norway is particularly appealing in that it offers both great surfing and snowboarding. With their rugged peaks and steep slopes, the Lofoten Islands are a thrilling choice for those wanting to combine the two sports in one trip, and come winter offer the perfect playground – one where it is possible to catch the perfect snow and waves on the same day.
The Lofoten Masters
Focus once again on the Lofoten Islands in Northern Norway with the world’s northernmost surfing competition. An annual contest attracting local and international surfers to Unstad on the island of Vestvågøy, the Lofoten Masters take place in the autumn and feature a number of different categories (ladies, open, longboard, 11-16 and under 11). 50 competitors took part last year (2012). The next competition will take place 10-13 October 2013.
Surfing in the Oslofjord
Did you know it was possible to surf in the Oslofjord? The best spot is Saltstein (see feature image on top), outside Larvik. The quality of the waves here varies hugely, with the best surfing to be had in late summer. The waves can get big but they also get crowded (due to the proximity of the capital – only 135 kilometres to the northeast). The spot is suitable for both beginners and more advanced surfers. On the other side of the fjord, the waters just outside Sletter and Jeløya in Moss are popular for kite surfing.
Norwegian surfing talents
A former Norwegian champion and team rider for Billabong, Jonas Paulsen is regarded by many Norwegians as the best surfer in the country. With a playful style and a good repertoire of moves, he has earned good rankings in European competitions. Now living in Stavanger, Paulsen is originally from Larvik, where he began surfing just outside his home at Saltsteinen (see above). This is the best place for surfing in Eastern Norway according to him. Other recent Norwegian champions include Åge Obrestadt (Norwegian champion 2012) and Gil Ferreira Kåberg (Norwegian champion 2011).
Wave-forecast in Norway and general spot information
Reliable and detailed wind forecast
Surfing in the Lofoten Islands
Norway’s only surf magazine (in Norwegian)
Jæren Surf School
Lapoint.no in Stadt (in Norwegian)
Stadsurfing.com in Stadt (in Norwegian)
Norwegian Surfing Federation (in Norwegian)
Surfing events in Norway
Norwegian Surfing Championship, Nov, Jæren
Lofoten Masters, Sep/Oct, Unstad Campsite, Lofoten Islands
Did you know?
Norway Surf Association (Norges Surf Forbund, or NSRF) was founded in 1985. It was the brainchild of Roar Berge, one of the first to start surfing in Norway, and to this day a strong advocate of Norway surfing. Last year (2012) the NSRF became part of the Norwegian Confederation of Sports (NIF), reflecting the sport’s growing popularity and significance in Norway.
Although not recommended for beginners, storm surfing provides a real thrill for advanced surfers looking for a challenge. The best places in Norway to try this are again Stad in Sogn og Fjordane and the Lofoten Islands in Nordland.
International Surfing Day is held every year on or near the date of the summer solstice (usually 21 June). The event celebrates surfing and the surfing lifestyle, but also aims to raise awareness of environmental issues related to the sustainability of ocean resources. Various places in Norway celebrate International Surfing Day.
Over 1,000 surfers visit the Lofoten Islands every year between February and November (the surfable months). Just under half of them are foreigners, mostly from Sweden, Finland, France, the USA and Australia. Many of the overseas surfers are experienced surfers and some are even professional surfers.
Unstad Arctic Surf offers surfing courses for all levels, including coaching. They also arrange surf camps throughout the year (tel +47 48 23 33 80)
Unstad and Hoddevik offer affordable accommodation in small dorms or cabins of various sizes, and food prepared with locally grown ingredients. Tired after riding the waves? At Unstad Arctic Surf surfers can ease weary muscles in a hot tub or relax in the sauna onsite.
Fjord Surfboards is a Scandinavian brand for surfers believing in ‘cold waters and uncrowded lineups’.
There are no fewer than four surfing schools in the Jæren area south of Stavanger, offering a range of courses and private instruction. Some also offer accommodation.
Still off the radar for most surfers, the Saga Islands (Giske, Vigra, Godøya and Valderøya) a few kilometres from Ålesund in Fjord Norway also offer good surfing.
The Nixon Surf Challenge took place in Lofoten in 2011.
Thanks to advance in technology and good wetsuits, surfing in Norway in winter is not as cold as one might think.
Jæren has many ocean fronts and can receive both southern, western and north-western wave swells, which compensates for the less consistent swell and means one can almost always find a place to surf.
The movie Norwegian Tides, a documentary about surfing in Norway (in English) by surfer and director Hans Kristian Waarum, was released in 2008. The film gives an insight into the Norwegian surf scene with a strong focus on Jæren. Much good surfing also features in old and young Norwegian talents such as Jan Erik Jensen, Jonas Paulsen, Kristian Engstrom, Richard Bentley, Zano Beck, Åge Obrestadt, Per Arne Zahl, and others.
Source: Visit Norway