You'll know that I've done a Kindle book (link above) and having proved my skills at geeking my way to that summit I'm now doing the same service for others. First client: long time compadre, travel buddy and surf media veteran Jarvi. Known as Craig Jarvis officially. He's pulled together stories from all over the surf world for a collection of journalism that will sit nicely on your Kindle bookshelf next to mine.
In honour of this new tome (available here) he's agreed to let me run one of the stories from the book here. It's a cracker from a trip we did to that joint in Norway that people keep 'finding'. We weren't the first, nor was Ted Grambeau, Jeff Divine was... Anyhoose. Read on for the story about how Jarvi got electrocuted and we pointed and laughed.
It was great visionary who once said, ‘Surfers just want to get drunk, stoned, laid and tubed.’
Easy enough to fulfil at home but could it be pulled off in the Arctic Circle? I was determined to try.
Destination: Norway. Goal: waves, tubes.
Secondary goal: chicks. Others: drink, drugs, music, culture, porn, Vikings, whales, fighting, Playstation.
‘C’mon bru. It’ll be good. There’s some really good waves up there, and apparently the water’s been so warm some guys have been surfing in boardies.’
So came my last invite to go surfing in Norway. I had been pondering it for two weeks. From Durban to the Arctic Circle is a long way to travel to get shit waves and freezing cold water. It costs about half a South African house to get there. It really seemed like a huge waste of time, but Durban had been small and onshore for weeks, one of the charts showed a 37-foot ocean swell bashing around in the circle, and I folded quicker than Superman on laundry day.
After five flights I was finally on the island. It was as far north as I had ever been on the planet in my life. It was cold. Really cold. We just wanted to get to our final destination as soon as possible. Due to some cock-up with the ferry, we had taken the long way around and had a good four-hour drive ahead of us.
Australian surfer/shaper Mark Phipps had the wheel, and I had the job of keeping him awake on this last stretch. Slowly, while he was driving, the sky started smearing. It started off like a little green blotch in the distance and I thought that I was just tired, and seeing things. Slowly it grew and became brighter. Eventually we pulled over and all climbed out of our crowded little cars. It was cold, but the sky was incredible – huge swirling green-blue clouds of swirling lights. ‘Look closely!’ one of the Norwegians told me. I concentrated on a little patch of cloud and saw that it was vibrating at a furious speed. Little points of light moving back and forth at incredible velocity. The Northern Lights on our first night. Some people come to Norway for months and never get to see it. We had got biggest sighting on our first night in. In a country where there are no signs this was a good sign.
We awoke to a still, icy morning, and headed down to the beach. The set-up was good. A perfect-looking right-hand point, and a good left-hand point-reef set-up. There were two-foot lefts dribbling over the end section. It was small and onshore. The Norwegians suited up and clambered over the slippery rocks without further ado as we sat and didn’t even contemplate. It was horseshit – pure and simple. We sat in the heated cars, opened beers and cheered them on. Thomas – Norway’s only hardcore surfer, scored a few set waves and they peeled perfectly over the reef. But to be honest, they were crap.
The next day was a groundhog day of icy conditions in this windless valley. Phippsy and I left sleeping hodads back at base camp and raced down to the left. It had dropped by about 5 degrees C. It was shite with a capital Shy. We stared at it for ages, trying our hardest to mindsurf the little lefts. It was hard. Phippsy broke the silence by mouthing what had been bugging all of us travellers. ‘What if this is actually good? I mean, why did those guys just charge out yesterday when it was completely shithouse? Maybe this is it? Maybe this is as good as it gets. I mean, we could have a point running along there and a left tubing over there, but maybe that was it!’ Fuck me. Sobering thoughts. The lefts of the day before actually seemed very very surfable now. ‘Fuck that,’ I said to Phippsy, ‘I’m on it.’ ‘Out there,’ he replied, and jumped out of the car.
To say it was cold outside is like saying Australia is quite a big place – a gross understatement. We rubbered up. Boots, 5\3s, hoods. I had no gloves but there were not going to be too many duckdives so I wasn’t fazed. We clambered over the slippery inside boulders and paddled out. It was bigger than what we thought. The first was about a three footer. We both got one, and rode them towards the beachie, doing a few little turns in front of the hungry rocks. We kicked out and paddled back out together. Stoked. The first tick on our score-sheet – surfed a wave in Norway.
After our surf we were bouncing around in the car-park trying to get warm. The rest of the entourage were looking at us, looking at the surf, and shaking their heads. In the outside chance that it were to go flat, like absolutely flat like France gets sometimes in summer, we would be the only ones to have surfed in Norway. Woohoo! ‘I’m walking back.’ I guess I was kinda euphoric, and the thin air must have made me a bit high. I walked alongside Phippsy and stood on the metal grid. The shock wave hit me so hard and for a split second I thought I was dying. Ever felt that before? Ever felt as if you were dying? I clutched my heart with my right hand and clutched my anus with my left. As the shock wore off, I realised what had happened. My mates laughed so hard. It was to stop the cattle escaping, and the shock had hit me through the wet rubber soles of my wetsuit boots. They were laughing so hard and I had nearly died and crapped in my suit. Still, when we got back to the cabin we claimed it. Claimed our first surf.
The next day was flat. Not a ripple broke the surface. The sea was dead, listless. ‘Maybe it is head high, but we can’t use the road. It’s a private road. We have to climb,’ said Thomas our guide. The mountain ahead of us was sheer. There was snow on the top, but here where we were on the base it was about 30 degrees and we were sweating. It was going to be a very long, very tiring climb. With boards, wetsuits, booties, gloves, hoods, suncream and water. After about twenty minutes I was ready to give up. The only reason I couldn’t was because Teasha (Joe Curren’s girl) was doing fine and still climbing strong. The ignominy of having a young blonde girl making the climb and me doing the walk of shame back down the mountain was too much for me to consider. I gritted my teeth. Which is more than Sharpy the lardarse could manage. ‘I’m gonna go and shoot some, err, landscapes.’ He lied to us at the base of the mountain, ‘I’ve also got a dodgy knee.’ Finally he muttered under his breath, ‘I don’t want to get muck on me new shoes.’ And fucked off to the nearest bar, the pommie bastard.
The view from the top was breathtaking, although I had no breath left to be taken away as it is. We were in the dip of a giant, purple mountain, littered with scree and goats. Way down in the distance we could see a corner of a beach and a few small waves bending and wedging off a rocky outcrop. It was hard to judge the size from this distance, but I was hoping that it was too small to surf and the guys at the bottom would start climbing back up. Ha! I would cut half the distance out of this infernal hike. I was exhausted. My Norwegian diet of cigarettes, moonshine and snus was taking its toll, but more of that later. In the distance I could see some arsehole suiting up. ‘Well, we’ve come this far – we have to go down,’ said Teasha, and my fate was sealed.
About a quarter of the way down something really bizarre happened. I stopped to get my breath back and look down at the guys on the beach, and they were pretty small in the distance. It looked like a long way down, and I stopped to rest. Then out of the corner of my eye I saw some more of our party who were only halfway down the snaking, treacherous mountain path, and they were smaller than the guys at the base! No, that can’t be right. The guys who were further away would surely look smaller than the people who were closer? Isn’t there a law of nature in there somewhere or something? I looked again. Focussing on the guys at the bottom, and not allowing the others into my line of vision. Then I turned away from them and looked at the other two halfway. Yep, it happened again. The guys on the path were still smaller than the guys at the base. Its an optical illusion called Fata Morgana indigenous to Norway. More about that later too.
We eventually got to the base of the beach called Whale Bay, so called because whales used to frolic here in the past, before they got slaughtered for blubber toasted sandwiches, and the waves were pretty average. Still, we had come so far. I quickly paddled out into the cold water and played around for an hour or so in the small right-handers. Phippsy and I had the first of many heats, and the Australian surfer/shaper whipped me good, despite the fact that he had a very average third wave. He had me on two waves and he also had me on three. Still, the Seppo trio of Joe, Teasha and Danny Nichols didn’t even bother to paddle out, so I claimed a silent victory over their no-show.
It was flat for a few days and time for us to get on the program. First off was Snus – the local chewing tobacco. You make a little ball with it and then smear it on your top gum. Your upper lip holds it in place. A local surfer called Tommy gave me some to try. He made a little ball and I gamely stuck it in. Nothing at first, then a gentle tingling on the gum, which soon grew to an unbearable stinging sensation. An uncontrollable need to vomit and to have a crap at the same time. Kind of like hitting a couple of hundred cigarettes at once. Funny. I clutched my heart and my arse again. Great stuff.
That night the girls came around. Some girls from the tiny town had heard about us seventeen surfers around and wanted to come and check us out. They bought with them a bottle of moonshine. Norway has very strict rules when it comes to drinking, and it is virtually impossible to get a good bottle of anything, and the beer is the most expensive in world. Hence the moonshine – a thin, paraffin-like liquid that tears at your face on every sip. Since we had been in Norway five people had died from it – getting a bad mix. Still, only live once and all that stuff. The most pleasant moment I have of this night, a night that went crazy with one roly-poly little bat-faced girl showing us her stomach, and another threatening to show us more, was this local surfer sitting (one of the three) next to me as we shared a bottle of moonshine. I was staring at the girls with eyes nearly dripping with semen and he saw me and said quite clearly, ‘You cannot be thinking like that. These girls are not fully grown.’
The right suddenly turned on with a howling onshore. Still, it was running perfectly along this point, reminding me of Bruce’s like it is these days, without the sand. We hit it. It was cold and windy but had some size. Joe (Curren) and Danny Manchild surfed the inside and got some sick ones hitting the sand, and the rest of us surfed the outside. It was good, showing potential, but still had the terrible swell-onshore equation to it, and this far away from normal weather cycles we were almost thinking about calling it hoax.
It had to happen. Some prick went out and bought two of the sickest porn mags ever. There was an anal serial called ‘Peaches’ and granted we all wanted to read part two. Seventeen surfers and one surfer girl in fairly small cabins with two porn mags lying around means that things are going to get nasty. Joe’s girlfriend Teasha took it very well, even reading a short snippet of Peaches one lonely afternoon. Despite us insistently egging her on, she refused to read it aloud, possibly due to Sharpy’s glasses steaming up in front of her at the mere mention of the idea.
GAY SURFERS ON MUSHIES
A caravan arrived one day at the left. It was a surprise. We really were in the arse-end of fucken nowhere. Some people have heard of this place and the set-up, but it is a mission to get to. Not just a boardies and thongs trip down the central coast this one; inside the caravan were two surfers. They had decent looking boards but never got out of the caravan to greet us – just looking at us through the windows of their German-plated caravan. Still, no dramas. That evening on the other side of the bay, while watching the right from the comfort of our Norwegian Tourist Board sponsored cars with seat warmers inside them (note – seat warmers are insane.) these two guys climbed out of the caravan. It was onshore and raining and probably about 1 degrees outside before wind-chill, and they were running down in their boardies. They ran all the way to the water’s edge and in front of my shocked eyes they jumped into the sea! They pranced around for a few agonising minutes before running back onto the beach, doing a few push-ups before mincing back to their van. Our Norwegian friend Lars went around to see if they were all right. He came back and told us that they were fine but seemed ‘a bit confused’.
‘They throw their pussies at you,’ said Thomas the legendary Norwegian surfer. Thomas was a good laugh. Hardcore to the max, happily married and a good surfer to boot. ‘You have to just ask.’ Well fuck me I missed something on this program. If they weren’t fully-grown and untouchable they had 5 kids, two ex-husbands and a new boyfriend called Johansen or Erik who was a muscle-bound fisherman and a very jealous type of guy.
No luck, except for one of the media-types (not me or Sharpy get that right, and not for lack of trying) who risked it with local. He claimed it and claimed her, but he was going through a non-drinking phase so we told him to fuck off with his dirty lies anyway.
We scored. Ha! On the afternoon of the last day it turned on. Well, it didn’t get ballistic and all the comparisons to J-Bay are to be pooh-poohed. Nothing like it. Still, a freaky, good experience to be surfing in the Arctic Circle. I know I’m crapping on about it now, but check it out. Get a map of the world or a globe or something. Find Cape Town. Easy to find. On the tip of South Africa. Cant miss it. Then kind of trace a line straight north. Head up into Poland/Germany area. There’s Norway! Don’t fuck around with the southern parts but plot a line right into the circle. Check it out. There are some islands around there. There is a convoluted coastline that just screams potential all around there.
Along with potential is also screams cold, snow and ice, 24 hour darkness, nine-month winter, expenses, and beautiful girls. The question that I ask myself after every single surf trip I ever go on, whether it be down the road to J-Bay, or to G-land or Cornwall or Norway or Spain is, ‘could I live there?’ Could I choose this place as a home? Imagine myself with a bottle of moonshine in my hand, a lip full of snus, a blonde babe, which I would eventually find, under my arm and a core surf population of three, I reckon the question is loaded.
*On the cover is Batty at the G-Spot, shot by me, I said to Jarvi just pick any shot you like from my portfolio and this was what he went for. Ironic seeing as Ireland tore him a new one...