Stadlandet, Norway

Some people can grab their surfboard and run barefeet onto the beach whenever they feel like. In Norway you might have to take a whole day off work for driving, and still you can't be sure if you get any surf. We crossed the southern half of Norway by car - from Oslo to Stadlandet, the western-most point of Scandinavia, to get to the country's only surfable waves for the weekend. This took us on a ride past and through astounding and jaw-dropping natural spectacles, right at home. Here's a pictorial report from the surf-mobile!

Team Surf poses at the Stryn Summer Ski Centre. All dressed for the beach - and we get 12 feet of snow and quite a few stares as we drive through with surfboards.

Lush fields bathed in summer and wide highways in Hedmark and out of Oslo before we get to the mountains of the northwest. As the snow has really started melting with a heatwave going on, we follow wide and angry rivers most of the way. At the mountain plateau it's freezing and the fjords are bustling with greenery and life.

The drive from Oslo to Stadlandet is at least 9 hours, and when we finally leave town at 7pm, we instantly agree to make a stopover somewhere along the road and have a pleasant and slow trip, enjoying whatever we might meet without hurry. The reports said no waves at Saturday anyways. We decided to leave on a Friday, as we have to return Monday and figured a total of 20 hours in the car is a bit too much for a one night stay.

Or something like that. Getting three guys into a car on the best summer day of the year for a whole day of driving to an unknown destination based on my analysis of meteorological wave reports was quite a gamble. The laws of supply and demand value hot days in the summer highly in Norway and you don't squander them lightly, neither your own nor others.

Map from Met.no.
The forecast is for the 15th July 2005, a nice summer day in Norway and my birthday. The trip lasted from the 8th to the 11th of July.

The route we followed to Stadlandet from Oslo was as follows: First we drove straight north on the highway towards Gardermoen, Norway's main airport. With high expectations pushing the general mood of the car we did this part of the route in 7 minutes, very likely a new record. Then the highway brought us along Mjøsa, Norway's largest lake, through Hedmark, the farmlands of Norway, to Lillehammer, the site of the 1994 Winter Olympics. We had a pit stop at a gas station in Gvarv - or something - to buy coffee. Then north until Otta where a left turn took us to the 15 across the mountains. This intersection is more or less directly east of Stadlandet.

Going west we pushed through Vågå, Lom and Skjåk before we started to look for somewhere to park the car and camp. We slowly realized that route 15 is one of the main scenic rides through the Norwegian mountains - meaning crowds. Having to drive past occupied rest stops made us visualize sleeping three grown men in a car parked in a ditch next to the road. With nothing but old coffee for a catwash. And nuts and raisins for breakfast. Until we found a spot next to a bunch of German caravans.

We still had nuts and raisins for breakfast, though.

The remaining stretch is through the mountain plateau to Stryn, then follows the fjord of Nordfjord to Nordfjordeid. From there it's an hour of driving around in nature before Stadlandet.

To get back home we repeated the route, only backwards, except stopping at Mom's Diner in Kvam and not Gvarv for coffee. The diner was not anything mom would be involved with at all.

Once, on a trip over the border to Gothenburg, Sweden, I witnessed someone proclaim the virtues of seeing your own country before seeing the world - a popular idea in Norway. I am pretty sure travelling this route covers that requirement.

Getting ready to roll.
Surfing at Stange. Deep into the farmlands.
Contrasts. But no waves. Still, we got some contrasts to write home about.
While some surfer-guys stopped us in the mountains to ask for directions to the waves, we were passed by a skier.
Even more contrasts.
Jon having a dip in newly melted snow while we're waiting for a rock slide on the other side to create some wave action.
Mats showing off his manliness, and Jørgen contemplating his sanity before freezing his balls off in the water.
Sights along the road.
"Pollfoss" restaurant and a toilet. We drove 6 hours away from civilization to a empty restaurant big as a mansion, just to get told by the waitress that she hasn't got time to tell us what the food costs. Then we have to line up in a queue to a toilet in the middle of nowhere.
Mats in front of some traditional Norwegian kiosk in Lom, the Norwegian Culture Wonderland and grass-on-roof capital of the world.

Having spent the last 24 hours on the road, travelling through four seasons and all the elements, racing against time to buy beer, confronting waitresses so nasty we had to flee a restaurant and facing our own desires and conflicting interests, we roll into Hoddevik slightly wiser and plenty more tired.

Hoddevik is the central beach of the Stadlandet peninsula, supposedly the most consistent surfspot in Norway and home to the surf house of Strandro. Stadlandet is known mostly to Norwegians from the weather report and no one we talked to before we left knew where this place actually was, even if it is refered to daily on the news, and has been for ages. It harbours Norways westernmost point Vestkapp - "Cape West" - and has seriously unruly seas outside it.

While we're there, someone tells us Stadlandet is one of three places in the world that can take really huge ocean swells and make waves of it, resulting in record-size waves up to 100 feet. 60 feet waves in the winter is not uncommon.

We're hoping for 3"-6" to play around in.

..and we get 1" whitewash. Hoddevika Beach at dawn.

Small surf communities seems equal all over the world. There's the little village next to a beach. Its got the handful of fishermen, their families and a nice selection of mildly anti-social old people. Some making money of the surfers to different degrees - others just living their regular life surrounded by tanned beachbums or freezing athletes in wetsuits. At Hoddevika there's the small community of non-surfers, God knows why they chose to live in this distant part of the country, there's a small convenience store and a farmer renting camp space to surfers. And then it's the surf house, which seems to be the natural centre of everything surf related.

We met about 40-50 surfers during the weekend, a good dozen related to a girl surf camp, some probably went for the girl camp without being girls and then just a selection of other people driving around looking for waves. Not uncommonly: The lack of waves makes everybody a meteorologist. For three full days everything we talked about was forecasts that said it would pick up in about 3-4 hours. And everybody waited in anticipation.

View to and from the surf house - where we couldn't stay because it was full of... surfer girls!
"Sea map gets wave reports - area around Stad most dangerous"
Ervika, Point Graveyard. Here we got the 3"-6" waves we left Oslo for. Five consecutive hours in the water definitively made the trip worthwhile. And it saved my relationship to the friends I dragged cross-country for this.
Looking up from Hoddevik one early morning.
Waking up in the car at 4am to check the waves. They were not there. Tried again at 05:00 - nothing. Then at 06:30 it was flat. Finally, at 09:00 it was still nothing and I got up and made breakfast.
"Mø", as cows say here.
"Bæ", as sheep say here.
Waiting for the waves to pick up. What surfing is all about. Five minutes later we just went in anyways.

Stadlandet is an end point on land and a dangerous crossing on water. Plans are in the making to create a sea-based tunnel through the whole peninsula for boats servicing the coast-line. To take the edge of it, literally.

It reminds a bit of Iceland and Rapa Nui with rocky grassland raising from the ocean. There's sheep, there's plenty of weather and it makes you want to know more about it.

Outermost towards the Atlantic lies Cape West. We went there of curiosity, expected a view, but got fog so thick no view would be more spectacular. 20 metres from the car the whole world disappeard in a silent, white veil scattered with silent, white sheep running back into the safety of the fog when close enough to notice the presence of a human. In the middle of nothing.

Go west
At Cape West. Almost disappearing in the fog on the way back from Ervik.
Surfer in the mist.
Sheep in the mist
Lonesome surfer at the edge of the world. What lies out there in the west?