Iceland’s Top Surfing Destination

Mj 618_348_icelands frozen break
Photograph by Chris Burkard

On a tiny stretch of Iceland’s southeast coast is a beach unlike any other. Jökulsárlón, an iceberg-filled lagoon covering about 10 square miles, sits less than a mile inland and connects to the Atlantic via a shallow river. At low tide, icebergs from the lake are carried downriver and become marooned on the black-sand shore. There, glacial currents and powerful ocean swells meet in water that surfer and photographer Chris Burkard describes as “barely unfrozen.” According to Burkard, a handful of highly skilled surfers – like California-based pro Nate Tyler – have discovered that it’s an ideal place for waves, thanks to a wedge-shaped break that rises from deep water to hit a shallow sandbar, creating the kind of barrels riders dream about. The only barrier to perfect surf? Navigating massive ice blocks en route to open water. “It’s like a maze, trying to get out into the ocean,” says Burkard. “Small chunks could pop up and hit you in the head. I’ve seen people come out with full-on crushed boards.” But, Burkard says, the unique landscape (which was featured in the James Bond movie ‘A View to a Kill‘) is worth the risk. “I’ve been to Iceland 10 times, and every time I go I try to visit this spot, just because it has such a cool, eerie, magical feel. It’s really drawn me in.”

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