Heidar Logi Elíasson is a professional surfer. But one of a kind because he surfs in ice cold water up north in the wild beauty of Iceland. He doesn’t takes waves for granted and always faces obstacles to get the perfect wave! In his movie »The Accord«, which is shown on the Ocean Film Tour, he speaks about the changing wind patterns which make surfing in Iceland like a miracle. We spoke to Heidar about his movie and surfing in Iceland … and while doing this, we definitely felt his passion for surfing. He really has this thing in his eyes when it comes to waves …
When did you discovered your passion for surfing?
When I was a kid I used to skateboard and with 12 I started snowboarding, which became my biggest passion for a very long time. I always dreamed of becoming a professional snowboarder. By the age of 16 I got into surfing when a very good friend of mine took me on a surftrip. I was hooked and I knew that this is the thing I really wanted to do. I was lucky enough that all my older friends took my on surftrips, showed me how to surf, drove with me to all those spots, paid for petrol and food.
When I was 18 year old, surfing had completly taken over me. Then I asked myself if I would rather spent a day in the mountains snowboarding or in the water surfing. Without a doubt I knew the answer would be surfing. That’s when I discovered my passion for surfing.
Speaking of your friends who took you on surftrips, were they like mentors to you?
Oh yes, absolutely. These group of friends which all were 10-15 years older than me, let my be a part of their adventures. I was really lucky to get to know them.
The movie is about the changing wind and the surf problems due to the wind. But there are many other obstacles surfing in island faces: snow and cold water.
Has this ever been a point of return for you?
What I like about surfing is the work that you have to put into it to get good waves. Especially in Iceland. You can’t just go out there and get waves. It all takes times, a lot of effort, work and hours and hours of driving. But after a day of surfing with all its obstacles that you face like wind, snow, and freezing water ist so worth it. And all the problems you face before, just makes surfing so much more fun. It gives a sense of accomplishment on top of the fun! Fighting for waves makes me feel way more grateful instead of taking it for granted.
You speak about the endless drives to get a wave. Did you ever ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere?
First of all: We do have a lot of fuel stations in Iceland! But it actually happens that you get so excited to get to a place that you hurry and keep going. So maybe you are midway on your trip, realising that you forgot the gas. That’s the point where your thoughts start spinning. But the only thing you think is: »Okay, hopefully this will happen after the surf!« First surfing and then getting into trouble is alright, but knowing that you will get in a tricky situation without surfing is hell.
How long can you stay in the water?
It depends on the time of the year. In winter on the coldest days I start freezing after 30 minutes. But I always spent hours in the water, hours and hours of freezing.
Any tips or preparations for surfing in ice cold water?
Eat a lot of food before you go surfing and wear a really, I mean a really really thick wetsuit. In a six millimeter wetsuit I always feel like my grandma has dressed my up on a cold winter day when I was little. Layer on top of layer and zipped up. I can’t move and I feel like the Michelin-Man.
In the movie you wear Vans in the snow? Aren’t your feet freezing?
Yes, sometimes but it’s okay. I wear winter Vans, they are isolated and I always wear big woolsocks.
Did you ever faced or surfed into a ice floe?
No, but I have surfed with big ice chunks. The ocean doesn’t freeze in Iceland until it gets really cold. But freshwater freezes as soon as it gets minus zero degree, which can get tricky when you surf somewhere with a lake or a river nearby. So it can happen, that you have ice chunks around you while surfing and that can be pretty dangerous.
Since Iceland has become one of those »hip« countries for surfing: Is there an increasing surftourism that you realise? Are there more surfers?
Ten years ago Iceland wasn’t a popular tourist destination. We had about 200.000 tourists coming over per year but after the financial crisis it kind of opened up and it became cheaper for people to come over. So now we do have around 2 millions tourists per year. Of course, some of these people are surfers. So yes, I realised it. But lately I have been seeing less and less surfer coming to Iceland. Probably because surfing is so hard in Iceland. You cannot come over and expect waves. Most of the time the waves aren’t really good.
Is there any other cold destination where you’d love to surf?
Yes! I would love to surf Ireland. This has always been a dream. But the thing about Ireland is, if the waves are good there, it’s good at home as well!
With which three words would you describe surfing?
Peaceful. Challenging. Rewarding.
Thanks Heidar 🙂