The 6 best cold water surf spots in the world
Words by Jed Smith Quantum leaps in wetsuit technology have taken surfing to a new place. One of frigid coastlines, sub-zero temps and endless, unexplored coastlines. Here are the six of the best (and most user friendly) zones we’ve found so far. * Right Point, West Coast of Ireland (above) Considered as a location for […]
Words by Jed Smith
Quantum leaps in wetsuit technology have taken surfing to a new place. One of frigid coastlines, sub-zero temps and endless, unexplored coastlines. Here are the six of the best (and most user friendly) zones we’ve found so far.
Right Point, West Coast of Ireland (above)
Considered as a location for the Rip Curl Search event, this right point is genuinely world class, offering a steep wall over sand with occasional tube sections. Only problem is swell consistency. The wave relies on rare Arctic Hurricanes, making it difficult to score (as far as World Tour event windows go) and guaranteeing some of the most excruciating weather imaginable. Think howling offshores, below zero land temps and around five to six degrees celsius in the brine. “There are nice times of the year to come here and surf but in the winter when the waves are the best, the place is fucking brutal and not everyone wants it,” says veteran photographer, filmmaker and former pro-booger, Mickey Smith. “Even if they do it for a day, they won’t do it the rest of the week because it takes it out of you.” Still, it would have been something to see how Mick Fanning’s rail game fared on this Snapper look-a-like when drowning in five mill of neoprene.
“Did that just happen? I mean, I know we were hoping for good waves but I don’t think anyone thought that was gonna happen,” says a delirious Alex Gray after surfing what has to be one of the greatest cold water discoveries ever. The mysto chunk, located in the Aleutian Islands – a string of 14 volcanic specs shared between Russia and the US (Alaska) – is well worth wearing sub zero temperatures for. One of the earliest surf missions out here was undertaken in the early 1990s and involved none other than WSL commentator, Peter Mel, along with Anthony Ruffo, the late great Jay Moriarty, and veteran lensman, Tom Servais. The vast island chain, with its endless stretches of swell battered coast, could well prove a cold water archipelago to rival Indonesia if this find is an indication.
The only thing more baffling than the waves coming out of Tofino, are the skills of its main man, Peter Devries. The Canadian cold water air and tube specialist killed his Innsersection entry a few years back, boasting countless gems from the waters around his hometown. It’s not as easy as it looks, however. “We get these big systems that roll through and it could be howling wind for days on end and then you get a little break of sun and clean conditions for just a moment,” he says. That said, the potential for groundbreaking discovery is immense. “With the amount of surf discovery over the last 50 years it’s a frontier that’s relatively unexplored but it’s just so hard to get to. You need boats, resources, time and money to access these areas,” he says, though adds, “I guarantee there are world class waves north of Tofino that haven’t been surfed yet.” Just make sure you keep an eye on the wildlife. “There’s black bears that get curious around camp, killer whales in the lineup, on land there’s cougars and other animals… Some guys like to carry a gun just to scare the animals away if they get too curious and rummage through camp. It’s nice to have that as a precaution.”
“It was sick, it was just, like, punishing,” recalls Dane Gudauskas of his forays to Scotland’s premiere slab, located in the town of Thurso.
The home of the Cold Water Classic Prime event from 2006 to 2011, Thurso was on the vanguard of cold water surfing’s mainstream penetration. A high performance, hollow slab, with room for hacks and pits on the same wave (see :30 seconds), the wave became famous not only for its quality but the healthy serve of culture that came with it.
“It’s core,” says Dane. “Swell just batters the coast and in every spot there’s a submerged rock slab. You kinda gotta gather your wits about you and get your frozen feet on the board and paddle down the face ‘cos of the wind. We were there for two or three weeks and the wind never let up. We didn’t surf any session when the wind wasn’t nuclear offshore or side shore or onshore. It was fun but you can’t see most of the time, you’re just free falling hopefully into the barrel, or you’re just landing on the slab rocks which are so shallow. You’re basically putting it on the line every time you surf where you could get the wave or your life or paralysed for sure. It’s heavy, it is super psycho but I mean it’s fun.”
“Dane’s Point,” North Iceland
“It’s kinda like a poor man’s Lennox point,” explains Byron-born Iceland veteran Garret Parkes, of the best find on this frigid island so far. The rocky boulder point located inside a deep fjord next to Iceland’s second biggest city, Akureyri, was most famously surfed by Dane Reynolds in Taylor Steele’s Castles In The Sky.
It holds anything from three to 10 feet and requires big north swells out of the Arctic to fire. It’s just the tip of the iceberg, says Garrett. “There’s heaps of undiscovered waves there, heaps and heaps of set-ups: reefs, beachies, slabs, left points, right points, sand bars, lots of waves on fjords, inside fjords,” he says.
Pampa Point, West Coast of Ireland
If Mullaghmore is Ireland’s Chopes, this left has echoes of a cold water Macaronis. A tad thicker than its Mentawaian namesake, its known to churn out barrels up to six seconds while also throwing up steep walls and cascading sections ripe for destruction. It’s not untouched though, as your author found out on a trip to the wave alongside Irish Pro, Fergal Smith. “They say, ‘You’re gonna look back in 10 or 15 years and think, ‘What have I done to the place?’” recalls Fergal. With water temperatures hovering around the five degree celsius mark and land temperatures around zero to two, it’s hard to imagine the kooky hoards flocking here anytime soon.
“Airlines Hate Me:” Bad Boy RyRy’s Guide To Surf Travel
Want to get pampered at the pointy end of the plane for free?
What Happens When You Borrow A Pro’s Board?
Joyride: The Shrizz from PANDA surfboards.
UPDATE: People Are Still Surfing ‘La Jetee’ in Reunion Island
Returning to the best & sharkiest air wave in the world, as seen in Mod…
These Are Your Favorite (Female) Surfers
What the Stab reader survey teaches us about taste.
Fear And Loathing in Mainland Mex
Parker Coffin, Harry Roach, and the Roark crew embark on an authentic Oaxacan (surf) trip.
While Everyone Flocked To Tahiti, Kelly Stayed in Jbay
...And proceeded to rip the hell out of it on a "borrowed" 5-finned Tomo.
Can A GQ Cover Boy Take Out Teahupo’o?
Kauli Vaast is your incredibly handsome Tahiti trials winner.
Watch: Ramble On With Caity Simmers
An action-rich tour behind the scenes of her triumphant first voyage to Oz.
PSA: Surf Filmers Not Welcome In Nicaragua
Cameras and drones are being seized on arrival, Stab spoke with two recent visitors.
Inside The Alternative Surfboard Marketing Machine
Two of the biz's best — Matt Parker and Blake Peters — spill many beans.
Two Brazilian sporting icons killed brazenly by off-duty police officers.