If you – like us – have you been mesmerised by the beauty of Chris Burkard’s snapshots from his surf expeditions to the Arctic, but always thought that destinations like these are reserved for hardened pro surfers and travellers with a solid budget, then read on. A native from sunny Marseille, Manon is a 23-year old French world traveller and pizzeria-owner, who’s developed an unexpected appetite for waves just above the freezing point.
Keen to show all os us out there that travelling does not require you to be born with a silver spoon and that you don’t have to be a tried explorer to embark on an extreme surf adventure, she recently launched a video series documenting her travels in Scandinavia suitably entitled ‘Surfing in Viking Territory’. While surfing under the Arctic sun certainly doesn’t look easy, all it takes really is a solid dose of courage, a driver’s license and some sound budgeting skills. As her videos certainly have inspired us to open our surf/travel minds and start looking to the North, we reached out to Manon to learn more about the lure of cold water surf and get some travel hacks for our next surf trip to Scandinavia.
Hi Manon- you’re a real globetrotter – where in the world are you at this exact moment? Hi! I just returned from Munich for the launch of the GoPro 6. I literally just got back to my house in France!
Because we are surf magazine, we are curious about your personal surf story – can you tell us about 1) your first surf session, and 2) your last surf session?
I had my first session in Sri Lanka in Bentota. I was 14 years old and I had never surfed before, because the waves scared me like crazy! They still scare me, but now I surf them. My last wave was in Tjørnuvik on the Faroe Islands together with an extraordinary local surfer called Kat [@iamthekatalis on instagram].
We are very excited about your video series “Surfing in Viking Territory” and watched your video from Norway, where you went surfing when it was -15 C degrees/ 5°f outside. When did you get into cold water surf and what is it about surfing in extreme conditions that you like?
I actually surfed in Norway by chance. I was already on the island of Lofoten and a friend commented on one of my Facebook photos: “oh cool, so you’ll be surfing there”. Can you surf in Norway? After two or three internet searches, we decided to head to Unstad in our van in order to surf THE wave. And so we surfed down there! In the beginning, I told myself “never in my life, it’s way too cold”, but we did it anyway, I loved it and I won’t stop anytime soon. What I love about it is it’s atypical nature: when you think about surf, you usually think about palm-fringed beaches and surfer girls in bathing suits, not people in super thick wetsuits with a hood and gloves.
I also love to be in the water and see snow-capped mountains in front of me! It’s so unusual! And I love the pureness of the ice-cold water: the sand doesn’t rise up like it does in warm water and blur the waves, so that they turn brown. No, there, the waves and the water are see-through and a clear, very cold blue. Magnificent! And finally, when you talk of extreme conditions, it also means that there’s nobody in the water, and that is pure bliss!
We were wondering, how do you stay warm in and out of the water under these conditions?
You don’t stay “warm” in the water! It’s cold! But when the water is at 2°c /35°f, it is still much warmer than the air at -15°c/ 5°f! So, it’s ok! Above all, you have to keep moving to keep warm. And if it’s your own wetsuit, you can always pee in it, haha. But don’t do it, if you’re renting – it’s not cool for the person renting after you ;).
Cold water surf requires a lot of (expensive) gear and travelling Scandinavia isn’t exactly cheap either – do you have any money-saving & travel tips that you’d like to share?
Actually, we rented our equipment in Unstad and it wasn’t too expensive! As for Scandinavia, we couldn’t afford a hotel and preferred the ‘van’ option for our travels. So we rented a small van that we used for sleeping – and we even cooked a few cheap meals ourselves to limit the costs. Also, we didn’t drink alcohol – that was too expensive :).
What is your dream destination?
I would say Greenland or some place that has never been surfed before. And surfing under the northern lights is my surf goal and dream haha.
Where are you off to next?
I’m busy preparing an expedition to Greenland (for surf and survival), but before that I think I’ll return to Norway for a couple of weeks to surf another spot close to Bergen and to do some kayaking all in the spirit of continuing my series “Surfing in Viking Territory”, which I’ll also share on my blog (available in French and English). The second episode on the Faroe Islands will be released soon!
Thank you, Manon & safe travels!
If you’re curious about surfing Norway, watch Manon’s video:
And follow Manon’s adventures on her blog Supertrampeuse (http://supertrampeuse.com) and her instagram @supertrampeuse.