The left-handed wave in the sea at Unstad is one of the best in the world. Professionals come in autumn and winter, while the gentler summer waves are perfect for beginners.

Tell the teacher we’re surfin’ — surfin’ Unstad bay

Surfing came to Unstad in 1963, after some of the local guys went to sea and ended up in Australia. There they got to try out the noble art of riding the waves. So they made surfboards in woodwork lessons at the local school, inspired by the cover on a Beach Boys record, and tried them out. They also discovered that surfboards are great babe magnets. For a long time, surfing was just off-beat fun, but since 1990 it has been taken more seriously at Unstad. Marion Frantzen of Unstad Arctic Surf, Lofoten's own surfing operator, describes surfing as a powerful natural experience, "lying in the sea is an insane feeling".

Created in surfing heaven

The sea off the coast of Unstad is 500 metres (1600 ft) deep, and the waves out there might have started building up in Greenland, with nothing in between to break their progress. However, as they get closer to land here, they encounter a sloping threshold. When the wave energy hits that threshold, it causes the wave to tower up high and foaming like in an Old Spice advert, and at that point, the surfers will be out there, waiting with their surfboards ready. Nowhere else in Northern Europe is more sure to have waves than Unstad, the tiny village that competes with places like Biarritz in France and Nazaré in Portugal to be one of the best surfing spots in Europe.

Autumn and winter

In autumn and winter, the waves are at their most stable, and that's when the experienced surfers come from all over the world for a very special surfing holiday. The left-handed wave that races in with the autumn storms is among the best in the world, and you are virtually guaranteed to surf until you drop. On the toughest days in autumn and winter, Unstad is without doubt only for capable, experienced surfers. However, beginners can still have a try at Flakstad, a little further west in Lofoten, and Unstad Arctic Surf is happy to provide transport out there. The world's surfing elite consider Unstad to be a location like no other — you don't have to queue to surf, as there is plenty of space. The exceptionally beautiful landscape, the Northern Lights above the evening breakers, and the bewitching light of winter create an atmosphere that is completely different from all the more traditional surfing spots.

Summer surfing

There aren't as many of the big, raw waves in summer. The kinder summer waves are better for beginners, and that's when families, adults and pensioners come to try a weekend in the waves. Professional instructors, with years of experience at all the world's big surfing beaches, are on hand to instruct. To start with, you only go out into water up to your waist, but gradually as you become more confident, you go further out. And everyone manages to stand up on the board in the end! When you have learnt how to do this, you will be able to surf in good conditions at any surfing destination in the world.

Extreme sport?

Marion Frantzen of Unstad Arctic Surf assures us that surfing is definitely not an extreme sport. A huge range of people, from young families to pensioners, come to the surf camps in the summer, and absolutely everyone manages to stand up on the board. "It's like learning to ride a bike; once you can do it, you can do it"! Unstad Arctic Surf has invested in the best wetsuits and the most stable boards. They are also well prepared with safety and life-saving procedures. "But, touch wood, so far nothing serious has happened here", says Marion.

Surfing at Unstad

Unstad Arctic Surf rents out surfboards and wetsuits, provides simple accommodation in cabins and serves food. You can buy everything individually, or book a package. Experienced surfers will prefer autumn, winter and spring, while beginners can come all year round. Beginners can always go to Flakstad if the waves get too tough at Unstad.

Read more

  • Unstad Arctic Surf has a website containing all the relevant information, and is highly recommended for surf lovers.
  • The Lofoten travel organisation, Destination Lofoten, also has information about everything else you can see and do in Lofoten.