I should probably not write this post since it might bring more people to Lofoten. Since Instagram, Facebook, Youtube and blogs it’s so much easier to spread the word of beautiful places, which has led to some unwanted effects. Sometimes authorities have to close down areas, the locals get annoyed with tourists and the tourists themselves are met by a very crowded scene instead of the trip of their dreams.
I have been to Lofoten Islands two times during high season (July/August) so it was interesting to come again in April. And I can tell you this: Lofoten is always beautiful but this time I could barely close my mouth because of all the stunning views.
Snowy mountains, blue ocean and white beaches, it doesn’t get better than this. I am totally in love with this place.
So with this blog post I hope to inspire you to go to Lofoten but skip the hectic months. Go when there is snow on the mountains, the beaches and parking lots are empty and most accommodation is available at a lower price.
Monday April 18th
Nordic Kayaks wanted to go on a small adventure, to get some nice photos and films of their products. I was asked to come along and how could I say no? Lofoten in April sounded like a dream to me. I imagined a scenery better than any glossy travel magazine could depict.
I flew up to Bodø while Fredrik (CIO NK) drove up from Stockholm together with the German photographer Felix Baum in a car packed with surfskis. Gordan Harbrecht (Nordic Kayaks EU) also flew in to Bodø and was supposed to arrive the same evening as me, but a broken airplane changed his schedule completely. Instead of aiming for the night ferry to Lofoten Fredrik, Felix and I checked Google Maps for a place nearby where we would be able to paddle. Parameters such as distance, snowy mountains, beaches and permission to fly the drone made us finally drive to Mjelle, 30 minutes from Bodø.
Once we got there Fredrik and I set the skis in the water and went for a short paddle. We were amazed by the snowy mountains and beautiful beach. We would have to spend the following day here while waiting for Gordan to arrive, but hey, we were fine with our decision, this was a really beautiful place.
Tuesday April 19th
I was sad to not be in Lofoten for the full two days, but also a little grateful to spend the night in a comfortable hotel bed instead of sitting on the ferry and arriving at 04 in the morning to Lofoten. I chose to see it as a consolation for a missed day on the islands. Despite the smooth sheets I was too excited to sleep well. I just wanted to start working and get out on the water in my surfski. Norway is so beautiful that it almost hurts, I always get overwhelmed when travelling there.
We had breakfast as soon as the restaurant opened and soon we were driving towards Mjelle. The first challenge of the day was to get Felix to the beach – which was easier to paddle to than to travel by land. We had three skis but only two paddles and also the widest ski we had was the Squall. We were not sure about Felix’s surfski ability, and we had some equipment packed in dry bags to bring along. We ended up paddling as a trimaran where Felix was in the middle holding on to the outer skis. Fredrik and I paddled with half a paddle each Canadian style. It went just fine and after 20 minutes we reached the beach. The tide was low as was the sun so we had to wait a bit for the photo shooting. Fredrik went back to land to drive and pick up Gordan.
As soon as the sun rose we started working and an hour later Gordan joined us. Felix took some great photos and used the drone to film.
The weather was stunning! Clear blue skies and 17C. I had packed lots of warm clothes but I only had to use some of them. On Norwegian radio they talked about the heat wave in Bodø that day and we were really lucky to have the sunshine. I had expected to freeze a lot before and after paddling, while sitting still and waiting, loading surfski and getting changed.
Everything gets easier when it’s warmer.
After lunch it was time to catch the ferry to Lofoten.
On the way to the ferry we discussed if it would really be necessary to go to Lofoten since it was so beautiful in Bodø. I told the guys they would not regret it, but they would have to go and see for themselves.
While on the ferry we discussed if we would have time to get any more photos taken before sunset. We calculated we would only have 45 minutes on Flakstad beach before sunset. Fredrik drove the car trying not to be distracted by the view passing Reine, Hamnøy etc. We were nearly alone on the parking lot at Flakstad and I was already prepared to jump into my drysuit. I was extremely excited and Gordan had to calm me down to make a plan. The view over the beach was stunning, especially with the low tide and beautiful light from the sunset and the snowy mountains. There was no wind, and there were glossy waves rolling in.
Gordan and I got a nice evening session in the playful small waves. We dared to surf them together pretty close to each other. This evening came to be my favourite moment of the whole trip. I just loved the scenery and the beautiful light from the sunset with the blue and pink colours. Surfing the small waves in my lightweight and beautiful ski, watching the snowy mountains and the beach acting like a mirror….overwhelming!
We arrived late to our booked rorbue (lodge on the wharf) in Ballstad. We went to bed pretty soon, everyone was tired after a super intense day. Everyone happy of course.
Wednesday April 20th
I had expected to wake up in the most scenic environment – on the warf with fishing boats, red little rorbues with the snowy mountains the background. But nooooo, there was a very thick fog which I think made the smell from the hanging stock fish even worse. The fishing for skrei (type of cod from Barent’s Sea) in Northern Norway and in particular at Lofoten is a huge activity during early spring. We got to see the result from some of it with all this fish and fish heads hanging to dry along the roads and in the small villages.
We headed to Unstad beach, the most popular surf beach on Lofoten. We hoped to get some waves there even though the wind forecast was nearly zero. I’m not used to a proper swell and don’t know what to expect without the wind. But we were not disappointed…
It was a scenic drive to Unstad, of course. On the way we had a look at the world famous Haukland beach but all agreed that Unstad would be better for the photos we wanted. Haukland beach was extremely beautiful but too tropical and no waves. It felt a bit weird to leave the beach without getting out of the car and enjoy the view. The scenery was breathtaking…
At Unstad we enjoyed the famous cinnamon rolls at the surf shop and then got into our neoprene and drysuits. I was in my drysuit for the whole trip but Gordan was more into his neoprene. We had some discussions about it but, as always, landed in that there will always be a need for both. People are different and paddle in different conditions. I am always fine in my drysuit, even with a dip in breaking waves. But Gordan is warm blooded and prefers to paddle hard in neoprene.
From the top where we were parked the waves didn’t look so big. We made a plan for where to surf to give Felix good angles with his camera. We would need to surf quite close to the rocks for the best photos, which made me a bit worried as I am not a pro in breaking waves and prefer to have margins.
The surf session turned out to be a bit hard for me. It was difficult to position us close enough to the camera to get good pictures of both the skis and the scenery. The waves were a bit unpredictable, both to catch them and leave them in time. The first time I fell in I didn’t get off in time but managed to brace and slide keeping my feet holding on to the foot strap until we stopped. Got up quick again so that I could steer towards the next set of approaching waves. After a while it happened again while pushing myself to get a nice wave closer to Felix. This time the wave was bigger and tipped me over on the wrong/down side. It got a bit turbulent but happy that my body reacted automatically to hold on to the ski and brake our movement with he wave towards the rocks. I must have knocked my face with my paddle, as when I got to land my lip was bleeding. When we took a timeout for lunch I was actually a bit relieved. It felt like a close call to hit the rocks and I got a bit shaky. This is why I like to have bigger margins when surfing breaking waves.
After Fredriks delicious dry food lunch Chili Con Carne (I am serious, it was yummy!) and some coffee it was time to get out again. Waves were now breaking closer to the beach and Felix wanted to try out other angles. We decided to surf in the middle of the beach where only smooth sand would catch a rolling surfski. I felt a lot safer and dared to push a bit more. At some point the waves were too fast and flat to catch for me, Gordan with his super powers was the only one who could put on a show. And he did of course. He is lots better in the surf zone than I am and it was inspiring to watch him selecting, catching, surfing waves and getting off in time.
It was fun to surf all the way in to the beach and surf the beach break. It was easy to roll out of the ski as soon as we landed on the beach, and not break the rudder. It was also fun to get wet and messy in the salty water, the sand and seaweed. I got a bit wet in my drysuit after many dips and rolls in the waves. Next time I’ll bring a proper surf neoprene suit to this beach.
The water temperature was 3C but never felt cold. I used wrist warmers and NKs thin neoprene pogies, perfect for my cold hands. I wore my favourite neoprene hoodie after lunch, since I had learned the risk for dipping my head was quite big.
Finally it was time to pack our things together and leave for the evening ferry. We had 1.15h to drive and when passing the bay inside Flakstad ‘Kilan’ (a nice kite spot) I got a bit sad we did not have more time. It would have been such a nice place for a late paddle session and there were nice photo opportunities. Next time I’ll do it.
Was it worth going all the way out to Lofoten? Or should we have stayed in Bodø? I never asked the boys but I am pretty sure about the answer 🙂
Lofoten never disappoints, and I’ll definitely be back in April again.
Most photos by Felix Baum