In January, in the middle of winter in Europe, the two Fanatic riders Kai-Nicolas Steimer and Lena Albrecht decided to discover Norway – not scared of fighting conditions with temperatures far below zero degree but not equipped with snowboard or skiers as you might think. No, they started their adventure-trip to Europe’s biggest glacier with their iSUPs, drysuits, an off-road-trailer and a 20-square metre tent accompanied by Lars Jacobsen, a photographer from Hamburg and Maximilian Stolarow, a cameraman from Berlin.
The two athletes had the idea to discover places far away from their hometown Hamburg and far away from the well-known, warm destinations that you normally combine with stand up paddling – ready for real adventures. Exploring landscapes nobody discovered with a SUP so far, not meeting a single soul on the way, was their idea.
After three days setup time with a lot of organisation and research they decided to start the trip with one car and one trailer loaded with their tent and heaps of watersports-equipment. They took the ferryboat from Hirthals, in the north of Denmark, to Langsund in Norway. From there, they left the well-known roads to drive through beautiful, lonely valleys and frozen landscapes with lakes and rivers covered in ice and snow.
Finding a place to stay for the night, with just a thin a tent in that rough landscape was quite challenging. They knew it would be cold, however none of them expected minus 21° during the first night. The cold didn’t only affect their bodies, but also froze almost all of their food and the gas for their stove. That´s when they started to doubt if that was the right idea after all. But even though they were worried to have underestimated the temperatures and rough nature, they were still fixed on their goal: to discover Europe’s biggest fjord with their SUPs.
Facing their destination the four of them carry on driving direction north, always looking for lakes or rivers, which aren’t fully covered with ice so they can sneak in a little paddle session.
After a long trip through deserted, snow-covered landscapes driving along roads that were hard to pass, they arrived at Sogne Fjord. The loneliness and silence, which covered the whole landscape was immense, it felt kind of scary for the city slickers from Hamburg and Berlin.
When they woke up and looked out of their tent the next morning, it felt like the whole area was asleep under a big blanket of snow. Motivated to discover that impressive landscape, Kai and Lena immediately inflated their SUPs to paddle to Europe’s deepest and longest fjord. It was for sure the most exciting paddle session they ever had, challenged by trying to avoid falling into the ice-cold water and overwhelmed by the silence around them, the stunning scenery of the nature and the rough cliffs along the waterline without meeting a single soul. It definitely was a scary but really outstanding experience for the two Fanatic riders. After a successful tour they completed the day at a campfire looking out onto stunning natural scenery.
It’s obviously quite different to paddle in rural Norway than the city of Hamburg and the two paddlers were to find that out during their next session. Since it was impossible to pass the road to the glacier lake by car, they had to pull their SUPs (fins taken out) along the snow-covered ground throughout icy woods to get from their camp to the glacier-lake.
Arrived at the lake they were stunned by the unreal beauty and the deep, shining blue of the glazier was very impressive. They stopped in front of the completely frozen lake to enjoy the awesome scenery. Unfortunately there was no water, just ice and so they had to move on, searching for another place to paddle.
Eventually they returned to their camp without paddling, but with 14km of walking through deep snow. The weather changed, the temperatures dropped and it started snowing. Totally hungry and exhausted they arrived back at the car. Even if the conditions pushed them close to their limits, their call for adventures was unrestrained.
The way back home guided the team along the coastline, where they found some nice swell arriving from Scotland. Even minus 11°C could not keep Kai away from SUPsurfing those perfect shoulder-high waves with his Stubby, which was another new experience for him.
However, the rough nature and cold did not stop the two paddlers but opened their eyes once more to the versatility and their passion for SUP. They are looking forward to many more SUP-adventures in landscapes no paddler had seen before!
Questions for Kai:
How did you get the idea of going SUPing at most icy temperatures?
Oh, anyone can do it in summer/warm temperatures. We just wanted to try something different. It certainly has a lot to do with our desire for adventure. Norway is not a standard destination but overwhelming. We paddled in solitude, a dead silence, something we have never experienced before. We were on the Sogne Fjord, the longest and deepest fjord in Europe, where we did not even meet a fishing boat. Left and right there were massive cliffs – simply amazing.
Which equipment did you take?
Very warm clothing, thick wetsuits and our drysuits and of course our inflatable SUP boards. The inflatables are practical in many ways: light, handy, but also more robust than the hardboards with which you can just slide over rocks to the water grind. I had the Fanatic Ray Air Premium, a great touring SUP, about 11-feet long and quite wide. Since you have the necessary stability to at the beautiful landscape and don´t have to be too focused on paddling.
Could you could paddle everywhere there?
Many lakes were frozen or only partially open. At the glacier we had to pull our boards behind us over the surface of ice. This was also a tremendous experience. The blue colour of the glacier was outstanding and you could already see it from far away. And in Stavanger seaside I surfed with my Stubby Wave SUP at minus 11 ° C in shoulder high waves. That’s what I love so much about SUPing: the diversity.
Would you recommend Norway?
Absolutely. I would go back there any time – but next time maybe with slightly better preparation. This trip we decided upon quite spontaneously. We googled the destination, organised the trailer, packed our gear and after three days we started. The weather forecast really meant that it would be a little warmer – but it was not. Those who are more sensitive to the cold should perhaps not sleep in a tent, because keeping the temperature warm is quite difficult. However, there is also nothing better than waking up on a fjord in Solitude, that´s for sure.