The first of a five part series from the team behind the Headache cold water surf film. Drift has exclusive access to the crew and riders as they head their way from one big icy swell to another – taking in Scotland, Germany, Iceland, Denmark and Helgoland…
It 6 o’clock. Afternoon. The sun disappeared an hour ago. I am packing. Some long underpants and the great Opinel pocket knife. Checking once again whether the camera equipment is complete and if I have everything I need to surf the cold waters. After a couple of hours of tormented sleep riddled with frantic dreams of sheep guts, Mel Gibson & world class waves, our journey begins. Felix, the head and coordinator of this trip, is picking me up with his old VW-bus.
For some reason, I don’t believe that this ride will survive our undertaking.
Passing rainy streets, we first start off through Wismar to pick up Lucas, the third one of the crew before making a short detour in Hamburg to collect the tents. Our inventory, as well as our fun on-board, are increasing proportionally. It’s hard to contain our excitement inside the bus. The chaotic duo, consisting of Jon Bron Jovi & Finn Springborn, do not only add the finest surfing skills to the illustrated group, but also an extra portion of motivation and knowledge of the localities. What follows are trembling hours on the autobahn and a creative plan on how to pick up additional surfboards in Osnabrueck for our trip.
A British customs employee asks us about the purpose of our trip due to our conspicuous vehicle. His tip would be a music festival
Using the last of our strength, we arrive at the ferry terminal at Amsterdam five minutes before departure. A last nine Euro Sandwich from the restaurant on board and then we catch some sleep until our arrival in Newcastle the next morning. As soon as we get off the ferry, a British customs employee asks us about the purpose of our trip due to our conspicuous vehicle. His tip would be a music festival. We have to disappoint him since we came to surf. After an unsympathetic head shake, we are allowed to continue our trip on the other side of the road.
We are heading to Edinburgh to collect the, for now, last members of our crew. Christian Spicker, our man for law and order, and Alex Tesch, the technician of our crew. That fact they would support this growing vibe was proved after seeing their giant board bags at the airport. From now on, the trip continues in an even more cramped way. In the dusky light of the cloudy sky, we see the outlines of the Highlands disappear in the darkness and we arrive at Thurso, Great Britain’s most outer part of the north-east tip. We find a 4-star accommodation relatively fast, which turns out to be a third-class hostel with a quite friendly Scottish host.
6 o’clock. The alarm rings, but it sounds strange. There is a shadow over me and I feel the warm breath breathing on my face, dripping excitement from it’s bare, grinning teeth. It’s Jonas, who has already developed an unrestrained desire to surf from our short sleep. As soon as it’s light, we explore the surroundings, in this case all the surf spots first. Thankfully, Finn & Jonas know the location well due to their previous visits.
The passages to the different reefs are mostly only accessible via paths and sometimes also via someone’s farmstead.
The passages to the different reefs are mostly only accessible via paths and sometimes also via someone’s farmstead. We stop at the first break, where the waves working well. After a short look at the surroundings, nothing can perturb them from into their neoprene outfits and to get their boards ready. While swimming in the surreal light of the setting sun, that has shown itself to us for the first time, we encounter our first waves in the cold Atlantic. Around us, there are black cliffs and kelp. The first barrels and air attempts are served to us. Although the waves have been small so far, they have been a great atonement for the trip. Since the weather forecast looks promising for the next days. A big swell from the north-west along with long periods and a lot of offshore wind, the gods look to have bestowed on us glorious times ahead. In the evening, even Jules Ahoi bumps into us. A self-described tanning enthusiast and the bard of our gang. We wouldn’t have wanted to have taken the keyboard with us for nothing anyhow. Together, we decided to stay one additional night at the hostel since the weather killed off our camping plans again. Thanks to the friendly Scot, we could also have seven people in a four-bedroom.
Set after set keeps rolling in whilst forming barrel after barrel
6 o’clock. You know how it goes. We are nevertheless not the first ones to be at the wave of our choice. Two body boarders are already being shaken thoroughly by the waves, which are already three times as big as they have been the day before. The entire mob instantly storms towards the water whilst being watched by the grumpy eyes of the two. Meanwhile, I am preparing the camera on the “beach”. Set after set keeps rolling in whilst forming barrel after barrel. The boys are having fun and are working the waves as best as they can. Sunshine. Wonderful. After a gorge break and some additional surf sessions, we put up our tents behind a farm on the coast. Five of us can sleep in the car, three have to go into the tent. We draw straws. Shit, a short straw. In the middle of the night, the rain wakes us up. Fuck, it’s raining again. During dawn, we dismantle the wet tents. The Big Lebronnski wants to show us a different Right-hander beauty since Thurso East isn’t working out. At the end of the muddy road, we don’t find waves that are that interesting. Yet, we see perfectly left-breaking waves flashing at the next tip of the land. All of them seem to be electrified. As always, Jonas is the first one in the water and paddles into a perfect 3.5 m wave. Rapidly, everyone gathers in a line-up, which is a synonym for “the 2 people with whom I am here.” Technics Axel is in his element. Finally Frontside, finally free. Now, everyone is warm. Even Thurso rewards us with perfect waves within the last light of the day.
When Jonas and Finn finally come out of the water in the grim, we go to the local supermarket for the daily shopping trip. After everyone has compared their bargains, from 50 pence fruit cakes to warm chicken in plastic bags, we gather for the outside dinner on the harbor’s parking lot. Rapidly, everyone gorges for himself. The river that comes from the Highlands and enters the ocean in Thurso is responsible for the audio of the landscape until it is complemented by the squeaking tires of a Range Rover. Apparently, some inhabitants are getting crazy with the car that was stolen by daddy. We are glued to the spot and just hope that the face, which is puffing away on a cigarette behind the windscreen, has no intent to start a fight. The Range Rover arcs with continuously squeaking tires over the asphalt, the green area and anything else that is in its way and culminates in a 1 m high jump over a mound. The vehicle stops and the smoking driver, that somehow looks slightly insane, looks over at us; maybe because we are trying to process what just happened with shouts of joy like little school boys. Felix and Alex quickly ask the inhabitants whether the maneuver could be repeated. “No problem”, they say and race away to, even during the second attempt, hardly latch into the ground after a short flight period and before we had the chance to take out our camera.
This little reef break that leads a miserable existence in comparison to its big brother Thurso East
On the next day, we have to try hard to find good waves until we finally head out to Thurso East. The afternoon is topped by a small session in Shitpipes. This little reef break that leads a miserable existence in comparison to its big brother Thurso East; unjustly, as the smile on our faces will soon show. They present immaculate and uncontested right-sided waves that are so precise as if they were drawn with a ruler. Powerful, yet harmless. The perfect wave to play with. Despite the very flat reef, of no consequence, one disregards the truly very long way back to the land. Another day, which ends with a grin on our faces, and we gather at the Sandras hostel for one more night. Slowly, we learned to appreciate the spiky feathers of the mattresses and the smell of deep-frying fat. All of us are completely knocked out and the evening doesn’t last long. Only a small glimpse at the internet. The weather and wave forecast that rain will be our companion from now on. Therefore, we should look out for a permanent shelter. Quickly, we find a small vacation home nearby for the next 3 nights.
And this is how we spend the next days in crowded beach breaks and local pubs
The following days, we spend having two to three surf sessions a day. Yet, the waves are steadily getting worse and smaller whilst the wind & rain get stronger. Now, after our daily surf and exploration trips, we thankfully can warm up at home, look at pictures, watch movies and hope that the weather gets better. Unfortunately, our hopes perish. The forecast still does not imply anything good. Alex is well off. He waited for the best swell phase and is already on his way back to Germany. Jules and Christian also leave the group after two days. We discuss the rest of our trip with the remaining members of our sports team. Chadd, a friend of ours who lives in London, had told us before that in Cornwall, during the weekend, pretty modest conditions were to be expected. So, after a last storm-beaten session in the Scottish waters and a detour to the castle ruins of the surrounding area, we decide to start the 15 hour drive towards the South. During the way, we decide to make a detour to Lochness in order to look at the legendary Nessie souvenir shop. Along the way, we are informed by illuminated panels, which we first doubtfully over- looked. Also along the way, we find spectacular waterfalls and rapids, harbingers of heavy rainfall that will follow us until the Scottish boarder. Apparently, the weather does respect national boarders, because from Glasgow on, we drive into the night with clear sky until we finally arrive at Croyde, in the South of England, at 4 am. Finally good weather again. The morning rewards us with sunshine and a temperature that is 10 degrees warmer than in Scotland. After breakfast, Chadd comes across our travel group. The waves at the bay do their best to fulfill the weather forecast.
And this is how we spend the next days in crowded beach breaks and local pubs. A successful ending to our adventure.