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.

A Death at Reynisfjara

A young Chinese woman was swept out to sea by waves at Reynisfjara beach yesterday and was found dead later that afternoon. Three other women were also swept off their feet by the waves but managed to reach land.

At 2.30 pm yesterday, National Emergency Operators were notified that a person in Reynisfjara had been carried out to sea by a sneaker wave. Emergency responders were dispatched immediately. Local search-and-rescue squads began searching for the young woman as soon as they arrived at the site, as well as on boats from Vestmannaeyjar and Árnessýsla, and the Icelandic Coast Guard’s helicopter. Later that afternoon, the helicopter discovered the woman’s body in the sea off the Reynisfjara coast. The South Iceland Police Commissioner’s investigative department is now investigating the events leading up to the accident.

A guide in Reynisfjara who witnessed the accident told RÚV that around 150-200 people were at the black sand beach, which is a popular tourist attraction, and that several people were standing close to the water.

This is not the first fatal accident at Reynisfjara, and authorities have taken steps to try to prevent such incidents.