Bryan Iguchi and Captain Siggi.

How is it that this place does not see more snowboarding? The setup is perfect for foot-powered, high-angle riding—hundreds of mountains laced with steep, clean chutes. Once you’re here, access is as simple as picking a line, parking or anchoring below it, and walking straight up the 300- to 1,500-foot faces. With thick sea-level air on your side, you can tag multiple lines in a day. Is the elevation too low for trophy-hunting peak-baggers? The snow not pretty enough for photo-hungry pros? Or the weather too unstable for the four-day strike mission? If there is any truth to the myth that Iceland was named by early explorers to deter others from discovering this paradise, the trick seems to be working to this day.

5.14.16

As the wheels free themselves from the earth, my mood is not lightened.

“What is the point?”

“Why are you doing this?”

The goal of snowboarding is to connect with nature, and that is achievable at home. Conditions there are in prime form. Why use resources to go halfway around the world to go snowboarding?

It is this mentality that has kept me Sierra-bound for most of the winter, satisfied and fulfilled. This attitude has me saying no to eight out of 10 trips, but when Forrest Shearer hit me up for this trip it was an instant yes. The crew: Forrest, Bryan Iguchi, Kohl Christensen, Ninja, Andrew Miller, and Jake Price. And the setup: snowboarding and surfing from a sailboat in a part of the world known for its vast wilderness. The combination made for a trip I could not say no to.

Not a bad way to travel.

5.15.16

Getting here was pleasantly easy—a time warp that put a coffee in my hand and a smiling local for guidance on the other end of security, 10 hours after leaving home. Leaving the airport, there is no blow-your-hair-back moment. It is more of a slow and steady draw that comes with each passing kilometer.

Hours fade without passing another car. Empty coastlines spill into vast horizons revealing a barren land, flowing rivers, and waterfalls to keep our attention. A hot-spring stop on the edge of a fjord at hour five, a long mountain pass, and then the real beauty sets in. The mountains grow to a perfect size, line after line of optimal pitch and uniquely featured terrain on both sides of the fjord. Glorious faces that normally would take hours to get to the base of—so undervalued and ignored—sit waiting for the ambitious rider yet to come. Every hour or so we pass a small storybook town of 30 or 40 houses, quaintly perched between the ocean and mountains. Alice In Wonderland meets Lord Of The Rings.

Destination reached: a harbor tavern with golden chutes out of two windows serving the best fish stew in the world. An open house from a friend of a friend named Camelia is our base camp. She left the comforts of Verbier, Switzerland, for Iceland—an unlikely destination for a skier and surfer. She is an anomaly to the locals, as this part of Iceland sees very little mountain traffic, and the ocean is to be avoided at all costs.

A note hangs from the door: “Walk to the sea wall. If you hear surf, walk down the singletrack to check it. Touring is simple. Park your car on the side of the road and walk where you want. Leave the keys in the ignition. Sauna and hot springs a few blocks down the way. Paddle boards on the deck, mountain bike in the back.”

Any anxiety of why I am here is now washed away.

Kohl Christensen, Bryan Iguchi, Jeremy Jones, & Forrest Shearer.

5.15.16

We spend the day getting gear dialed and further acquainted with our captain, Siggi, and his son Ragnar. Siggi grew up in the town at the end of the road and was always drawn to the lure of the ocean. Ten years ago he quit his job as a naval architect, bought a boat, and started taking people to the unexplored and unreachable fjords north of town. Word spread, and he is now on to his second boat, the Arktika. He has wisdom that comes from a life on the sea and the peaceful happiness one gains from following their passion, manifesting their own destiny, and loving their job. Missing is the jaded, sharp edges that often come from a life on the edge of society.

Ragnar is new to the program. He is the only snowboarder in the family and dreams of someday coming to America to ride our perfectly manicured parks. Hiking lines from a sailboat is an old-man sport to him. It seems Siggi is using our presence as a way to lure him into his universe and show his son a different side of the sport. This will be his first time acting as first mate.

There is no better way to clear the jet-lag cobwebs than to strap on some crampons, get up high, and charge some blind rollovers. With the boat set for a morning departure and plenty of daylight left, we take the opportunity to further acquaint ourselves with the lines above town. They are bigger and steeper than we realized, but a few hours later we are topping out in the soft light of the midnight sun.

Forrest Shearer.

I drop first and am pleasantly surprised at the quality of the snow—predictable, edgeable, and fast, I let my board run for a few hundred feet. Reaching the chute, I work the double fall-line edge while I let my sluff pass. Big, fast, and thick, it passes me like a freight train and runs the length of the face.

Reaching the bottom I grab for my radio to warn the crew, especially our Hawaiian surfer, “Do not get caught in your sluff. Work the double fall line; use the island of safeties on the side.”

The mountains may look small, but there is nothing small about the lines we are riding. If these faces were stapled on top of long, tall, rolling approaches, they would be on the “50 classics” list. They are big and serious—giants without legs.

The locals are shocked with our actions. Cars are lined up on the side of the road. Within 24 hours, there are short videos on the internet of the crazy Americans who walked straight up the mountains and snowboarded back down.

Walk up, ride down. Repeat.

5.16.16

The edge is sharp, dramatic, and covered in guillemot birds. Guillemots have the wonderful quality of being able to swim and fly. They are a symbolic creature for us on this trip as we play on the sea and land. Kohl has the binoculars pinned to his face, “Look at that set peeling off the point.” It is one of a dozen working setups. The swell is small but big enough for us to imagine and guess with accuracy the surf potential.

Moving down the coast an alpine bowl captures my wonder. “Can I borrow the binos?” Steep and clean lines pierce the broad peak. To the left, a defined triangle shows possibilities. Between the surf, snow, and endless daylight, the options here are infinite.

5.23.16

How did we get here? What is the thread that has led us all to the most remote corner of Iceland? The path is different for all, but our quest is the same. All of us are on a course we set long ago. It is not until you give up guaranteed success that you find the magnificent edges of the world—edges that are often rough and harsh but occasionally lie down for you and serve up the goods. If you keep showing up, keep putting in your time, eventually you end up at the right place at the right time with the right people. But the wrong standard, the wrong time of day, the wrong expectations will leave you unsatisfied.

The crew, down days, and some local wildlife.

5.18.16

I have drawn the picture a 100 times. Watercolors, oils, pastels. Snow-covered peaks down to the ocean, peeling waves off the coastline, and a sailboat anchored in the bay. It has taken me 30 years since my first iteration of the drawing to make it a reality. But here I sit with my snowboard boots on, my wetsuit drying next to me, and a 60-foot sailboat rocking beneath me. The morning was spent surfing a small wave underneath a large peak by the name of Elf Mountain.

Surfboards are traded for snowboards as we head out in the afternoon light to make a go at Elf Mountain. It is a setting fit for a fairy tale, and we are overjoyed to be characters in it. It’s considered by many to be Europe’s biggest wilderness, and the view seems to confirm this. Both sides of the bay are guarded by dramatic peaks that fall into the ocean. If one was to drift out of the bay and head straight for 300 miles, they would hit the remote southeast coast of Greenland.

Jeremy Jones & Kohl Christensen.

Four hours later, the midnight sun approaches the horizons but stubbornly refuses to set. We are now on top of Elf Mountain ready to snowboard, but the view is paralyzing. Standing atop the highest peak in the area, we’re surrounded on three sides by ocean below, waves peeling off multiple breaks, and our boat—a speck in the bay—floating peacefully. The snow below our feet finally gets the attention it deserves. Forrest drops in first, allows gravity to take him, and lays into an effortless turn. A beautiful mohawk of golden corn snow covers the horizon and confirms our suspicion that the snow is perfect—not in the cold, blower, smoky sense but in a form I have never seen. It is soft, fast, and smooth but not sticky and roller-balled like I would expect in this scenario.

5.19.16

As a lifelong snowboarder who loves to surf, I am always looking for places to do both. This has led me to New Zealand and Chile, and it’s why I call California home. But I have never seen a place like Iceland where you can climb a mountain to snowboard, scope the sand bars from above to see which is working best, ride down to the break, and switch into surf mode.

Kohl Christensen kiting in Iceland fjord, safe to say people had never seen this out there before.

Like the mountains above, filled with abundance of opportunity for snowboarding, the sea carries a similar playground for the patient surfer willing to put in their time. Every angle of coastline is filled with nooks and crannies that hide from the wind and pick up swell. We see glimpses of it everywhere, but with snowboarding as our main purpose here, we only scratch the surface of wave potential. If you are looking for perfect surf or snow served up on a platter day after day, right out your front door, then perhaps Iceland is not for you. It takes time, persistence, and the will to look around the next corner.

5.21.16

The halfpipe takes time—millions of years to be exact. Glacier ice finds the weakness in the rock and carves out a sharp, deep valley. The bottom is filled with water, the walls lined with rock and snow. Its geometry is perfect, each wall a spitting image of the next. For Forrest and me, it takes the better part of a day to ride it. We scramble for three hours up one side with the help of crampons and ice axes. At this point in the trip, we have figured out the anomaly of fast, bottomless corn snow and the ideal time of day to ride it. It rides like pow but lacks the looks. It is powder’s ugly twin: same brains, same skills, without the glitz. We can’t get enough of it. Dropping in, I draw a line usually reserved for the likes of Alaska; my sluff is beat through the choke and three minutes later I am at water’s edge. A small boat transfers us across the flats to ride the other side. A few hours later we are back at the boat, the mission complete. Ten hours in process, millions of years in the making, halfpipe shredded.

Forrest Shearer and Jeremy Jones in the dinghy after riding lines in Iceland.

5.23.16

How did we get here? What is the thread that has led us all to the most remote corner of Iceland? The path is different for all, but our quest is the same. All of us are on a course we set long ago. It is not until you give up guaranteed success that you find the magnificent edges of the world—edges that are often rough and harsh but occasionally lie down for you and serve up the goods. If you keep showing up, keep putting in your time, eventually you end up at the right place at the right time with the right people. But the wrong standard, the wrong time of day, the wrong expectations will leave you unsatisfied.

Leaving the same tavern we started in two weeks prior, the strangers are now friends and the lines above have meaning. I approach Ragnar, leaning against the wall, pointing out the chutes above town to his friends, explaining to them how they are rideable, how he has followed us the last two weeks and learned the art of riding them, that the town they live in is good for snowboarding even though there is no resort, and that he is going to ride all those chutes someday. Listening to the quiet kid open up, seeing the sparkle in his eyes, the fire in his soul, I decide to leave my splitboard setup behind for him.

Forrest Shearer. West Fjords, Iceland.

And it is in this moment watching the 19-year-old hold court with his friends that I realize the importance of travel. The world is not a better place if we never travel. Travel offers perspective that is hard to be gained in the comforts of home. The humility gained from relying on others, the understanding that we do not have all the answers, that there is more than one way to live life, that we are all connected on this planet even though we speak different languages, eat different foods, and dance to a different beat. It is time to head home now. Alive, energized, and with a small understanding of what that little island quietly sitting between Europe and North America is all about.