3 Off-the-Radar Surf and SUP Adventures
By KEEN Ambassador Charles Post
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that the adventures that take you to lesser-known corners of the world tend to be the richest experiences.
When most people think of a typical surf trip or Hawaiian adventure, they don't think of surfing in the Arctic or under the Golden Gate Bridge, or SUPing a river in Kauai, but that's exactly what I've done over the past year. I’ve surfed and explored by board in some really unique places, and these experiences rise to the top of my list of adventures this year.
SURFING IN NORWAY
When we first visited Norway, I never thought I’d return a few months later to throw on a 8mm wetsuit, thick gloves and boots for a surf session high in the arctic.
Last time we were in Norway, Rachel and I started our trip in the far north in a city called Tromsø, which is truly the gateway to the Norwegian arctic tundra, a place where reindeer roam wild, and kids are born with skis on their feet. Since our latest trip was a summer one, we packed for some different activities and headed straight for Lofoten, the islands that we first fell in love with just a few months ago. This time we rented a small cabin at the foot of a cluster of mountains we had scoped out but were unable to hike into and explore due to the deep snow and avalanche activity during that time of year. We were also planning on surfing one of the world’s best and northern most surf breaks, which had been top of mind since my friend, Chris Burkard, first photographed the place a few years ago. It seemed too good to be true.
About a week into our stay, my Swedish friend, Emil, (an amazing human and stoked surfer) tipped me off that the first fall swell of the season was forecasted to arrive in a few days. My dad had just flow in to visit, and I figured we could make a day of it, and head out to the beach. Let’s just say my dad wasn’t surprised to go straight from the airport to the beach because that’s what he and I did on many days while I was a kid learning to surf in the cold waters off northern California.
If you go:
The country is full of waves, most of which don't exist on a map, which means you'll have to prepare for a solid adventure if you want to turn your next Norwegian vacation into a surf trip. Without tipping you off to any secrets, I will say asking locals about surf spots is a great way to find some hidden gems in the Arctic. Learn a few words in Norwegian too; the effort goes a long way! And for those of you looking for a one stop shop surf destination, be sure to head North in the Arctic to the coastal village of Unstad. There you'll find everything you need from a warm lodge to a thick wetsuit and board to rent. Once you get up there, you'll never want to leave! And be sure to try the hot cinnamon buns - rumor has it they're the best on Earth.
SURFING UNDER THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE
Photo by @perrygershkow
I was born and raised surfing in northern California. But as a young kid surfing, our community was small, and our region was almost entirely off the radar; nobody thought of northern California as a surf destination. It's cold, windy, sharky, and lacks the typical California beach aesthetic most are seeking out.
When I recently flew back to San Francisco, I had a chance to get back in the water with some of my friends and surf one of the world’s most unique and obscure waves, one that breaks beneath the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco Bay; it’s an odd feeling surfing towards a rocky shore surrounded by city!
Photo by @perrygershkow
If you go:
If you're looking to include a beach day into your next SF adventure, you'll find quite a few options all within a pretty close proximity to downtown. Ocean Beach and Fort Point are safe options given the consistency of swell (especially in the winter) and Santa Cruz is just 1.5 hours to the South, which holds some of the best surf in the world. And regardless of where you end up, always be sure you spend some time studying the water, lineup and currents; Northern California can have serious waves that do require a good bit of caution and experience. So, do your homework, get a 5/4mm wetsuit and give it a go!
RIVER SUPING IN HAWAII
When we arrived in Kauai with surf on the mind, I never thought we’d spend a few days SUPing up one of Hawaii’s biggest rivers through mountainous valleys and sweeping green fields with cattle grazing the banks. I don't think many think of Kauai as a river SUPing destination. But when the surf's flat and the wind is strong onshore, setting off on an adventure upriver, inland, is one way to ditch the crowds and take a lesser-known adventure!
If you go:
The Hawaiian Islands are famous for their surf, especially on the North Shore. And with that accolade comes a community of watermen and woman who hold these surf spots close to their hearts. The best advice I can offer for anyone hoping to catch a few waves in the islands is to respect the locals and the lineup. Be patient, polite and wait your turn. If you do these three things, you might just catch the wave of your life. If the surf's not what you're looking for, you can get your fill by SUPing lesser-known rivers, bays and coves. You'll get to experience the beauty of the water without the pressure of surfing over a shallow reef or amongst a crowded lineup!
So next time you’re planning an adventure, take a moment a turn over some of those obscure stones your eyes glanced over at first, often times there’s some hidden gems waiting to be discovered!