Norway: A nation of sports and athletes | Polarjournal
If you are not afraid of cold water, you can also ride the waves in northern Norway. Photo: Stefan Leimer

The Norwegians are a nation that loves sports. This is evidenced by such illustrious names as Erling Haaland, probably the most exciting soccer talent at the moment. The richest clubs in Europe are outbidding each other with their offers to secure the services of this exceptional young footballer. Or chess genius Magnus Carlsen, who has been world chess champion since 2013.

But Aksel Lund Svindal is probably better known in Switzerland. The Norwegian ski racer, who has since retired, is one of the most successful ski athletes of recent years. As an all-rounder, he won a total of 36 races in the Alpine Ski World Cup in four out of five different disciplines.

But ice hockey, soccer and horse racing are also very popular among Norwegians. After all, the Scandinavian country has 11 harness racing tracks. When you think of Norway and sports, winter sports naturally come to mind. In fact, skiing, and especially cross-country skiing, is at the top of the list of recreational sports.

The successes in winter sports are amazing with only 5.5 million inhabitants.

“Skiing and snow, it’s part of our culture, our heritage,” is something you hear over and over again. It is also often said that “Norwegians are born with skis on their feet”. In fact, Norway is the home of skiing. Skiing was invented in Morgedal, a region in Telemark. The fact that almost every Norwegian has been on skis since childhood is also evident every four years at the Winter Olympics. The Norwegians have already won the medal table seven times at the Winter Olympics. In the eternal best list of the medal table at Olympic Winter Games, they are in second place. And twice Norway has hosted Winter Games so far: 1952 in Oslo and 1994 in Lillehammer.

While in Switzerland the focus is on alpine skiing, the Norwegians enjoy cross-country skiing (Norwegian: langren) above all.

Surf beginners venture into the waves on Andøya under the guidance of probably the northernmost surf school in the world. Photo: Stefan Leimer

One of the reasons Norway is so successful as a skiing destination is the well over 1,000 clubs that can be found from the south to high in the north. The ski clubs have one thing in common. First of all, it’s about relaxing and playing, not about winning. The lack of competition at a young age should ensure that athletes are all the more successful later. Even if it sounds contradictory at first glance, the idea behind it is that children will not get frustrated so easily if the are protected from too much pressure of expectations.

And, with all the distractions that the modern world brings, spending time in nature on a regular basis is still very important to most Norwegians.

For a few hardened ones, “staying in nature” means surfing in the 4-5° cold northern sea. Norway has become a popular surfing destination in recent years. In 2015, the country joined the ISA, the International Surf Association, and is now allowed to participate in major international surf competitions. From Rogaland in the southwest to the Lofoten Islands in the north, Norway’s coasts offer excellent conditions for this water sport. The main season is from September to May, because in these months you can expect the biggest waves. However, these are also the coldest, windiest and darkest days of the year, which shows the passion with which the sport is practiced in Norway. Every year in September, the professionals compete at the Lofoten Masters, the world’s northernmost surfing competition. A thick wetsuit is unavoidable here, because surfing in Norway means mainly cold water and snow-covered beaches in winter. For “romantic” surfers there is the possibility to surf in front of snowy mountains under the magical northern lights.

The sport of surfing has also arrived in the royal family. In October 2020, 16-year-old Princess Ingrid Alexandra won the Norwegian National Junior Surfing Championship in Stavanger. Crown Prince Haakon and his wife, Crown Princess Mette-Marit, were of course on hand to cheer on their daughter.

Here on the island of Andøya you don’t get royal support, but you can surf very well here too. The small surf school Andøya Arctic Aloha offers both beginners and experienced surfers the opportunity to indulge in their sport in the Arctic Ocean. And can probably rightly call itself the most northern surf school in the world.

Andøya Arctic Aloha is not designed for big mass tourism. While up to 5,000 surfers from all over the world gather on Lofoten every year, things are much calmer here on Vesterålen.

Not for wimps – in 4 to 5°C cold water the motivation is even greater not to fall off the board. Photo: Stefan Leimer

Anders Stave and his wife Camilla Celise Christensen founded the Arctic Surf Club in 2016. For the two of them, the most important thing is to make outdoor sports fun and to respect and preserve the wonderful environment. Anders works in Andenes at the local helsesenter as a doctor. But as soon as the work schedule permits and the weather promises good waves, he packs his boards to plunge into the tides on the southern part of the island.

I had the pleasure of accompanying a couple of my wife’s work colleagues on surfing trial lessons. Nathalie “unfortunately” had to work that day. She was probably not too unhappy about it, as she doesn’t really appreciate the combination of cold temperatures and water.

Such unique light moods are probably only offered to surfers in the Arctic. Photo: Stefan Leimer

While I made myself warmly dressed on the beach, the women equipped themselves with thick wetsuits including caps, gloves and shoes. After a few safety instructions, well-intentioned tips and warm-up exercises led by Anders Stave, the women daringly plunged into the water. But all beginnings are difficult and only a few managed to surf at least a few meters on a wave while standing on the board. On this day the northern sea was still lenient with the beginners. After a storm, the waves here can quickly reach a height of several meters.

After just under an hour, all the surfers found themselves back on the beach. The strenuous exercise in the ice-cold water took its toll. Exhausted but happy about their experiences, the participants looked forward to a hot shower and a fortifying cup of coffee.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
error: Content is protected !!
Share This