Iceland’s Surfers Fight to Save the Wave

Surfer by Snæfellsnes, West Iceland

Iceland’s surfers have started a petition to stop a harbour expansion that would destroy the country’s most popular and consistent surfing waves. The location in question is Þorlákshöfn, Southwest Iceland, where the local municipality’s plans to expand the harbour would destroy the very characteristics that have made the site a prime surfing location.

The harbour expansion has also stirred controversy outside the surfing community, as it is spurred by a mining project in the region that would use the expanded harbour for export.

Steinarr Lár Steinarsson, chairman of the Icelandic Surfing Association (Brimbrettafélag Íslands) told The Inertia that the association has begun working with harbour designer Simon Brandi Mortensen and the Australian company DHI Group to propose alternate designs for the harbour that would not negatively affect the waves. If that doesn’t work, Steinarr Lár said the association would take legal action against the development.

The petition’s wording is hopeful. “We believe that solutions can be found to satisfy all parties and ensure that this unique place is preserved,” it reads in part.

Surfing was first introduced to Icelanders by American soldiers who surfed from the army base in Keflavík. They were the first to discover the best surfing spots in the country, but the sport didn’t quite catch on among the locals. Ten years ago, there were around 20-30 regular surfers in the country, but in recent years, the community has grown to include hundreds of surfers.

Read more about surfing in Iceland here.

Regulation Changes Needed to Ensure Safe Housing

Slökkvilið höfuðborgarsvæðisins bs / Facebook. Fire in Hafnarfjörður, August 20, 2023

Iceland’s housing problem gets worse with each passing year, President of The Icelandic Confederation of Labour (ASÍ) Finnbjörn A. Hermannsson stated in a radio interview yesterday morning. One died and two others were hospitalised in a fire earlier this week that broke out in an industrial building that was being used for housing. Thousands are likely living in buildings that are not classified as residential in Iceland and Finnbjörn says such residences should be legalised to ease safety monitoring.

Housing a key issue in upcoming wage negotiations

Finnbjörn says there simply isn’t enough housing to meet demand in Iceland. “We can’t even keep up with normal [population] growth, let alone when we get such a huge wave of working people that the society needs,” he stated. “Everyone needs somewhere to live and so they go to these industrial buildings that are not intended for residence.”

Following a fatal house fire in June 2020, Icelandic authorities launched an investigation into housing conditions in Iceland that found that between 5,000 and 7,000 people were living in properties classified as commercial or industrial buildings in Iceland in 2021. Finnbjörn says that housing will be at the forefront in the coming collective agreement negotiations. He expressed his faith that the situation would improve.

New legislation on the way

Living in buildings that are not classified as residential buildings is currently illegal in Iceland. It has proven difficult for fire departments to monitor such buildings due to privacy laws. However, the Minister of Infrastructure plans to introduce a bill next month that would allow for temporary residence permits in buildings that are not classified as residential, provided they fulfil safety requirements. The legislation would also authorise fire departments to monitor such buildings more closely.

Woman Who Set IKEA Christmas Goat on Fire Regrets Nothing

IKEA Goat Stöð 2

“I maybe wouldn’t do it again. But I wouldn’t take it back either,” the woman who set the infamous IKEA Christmas goat on fire in 2016 told Stöð 2 in an exclusive TV interview. In November 2016, she and two others committed arson by burning down the infamous Christmas monument with the help of a generous dousing of gasoline. Each member of the trio was fined ISK 150,000 [$1,080, €1,025].

The Christmas Goat is based on traditional, albeit much smaller, straw Yule Goat figurines, and originated in Gävle, Sweden in 1966. The IKEA Christmas goat has been a popular target for firebugs in recent years and has been burned down by arsonists three times (in 2010, 2012, and 2016). It seemingly self-immolated in 2015, when it caught fire due to an electrical malfunction. But even in years when it hasn’t burned down, the Christmas Goat hasn’t fared much better: harsh winter winds have knocked it over on more than one occasion.

With her identity and voice disguised, the 2016 arsonist described a “certain adrenaline rush” brought on by the illegal endeavour. Asked why she decided to do it, she responded: “That’s a good question. I think the main reason was that it was really funny.”