In September 2003 I flew to Greenland with photographer Steve Fitzpatrick and surfers Brian Toth and Darryl "Flea" Virostko. It was a trip for Surfer
magazine. Things looked promising until we were in the Air Greenland helicopter, dropping into the tiny southern burg of Nanortalik. Obviously there was no surf here. No setups. No beaches. We'd thought the islands offshore could produce something....anything. "Even a head-high beachbreak would be sweet," Surfer
editor Chris Mauro said to me before we left.
This was before Google Earth and when surfing magazines had the sort of budget to fund such shots in the dark. So we went for it. For surfers, the main issue with exploring Greenland is the lack of roads. Swell isn't a problem. Icebergs are. Crowds are nonexistent. It's very expensive to travel to and around the island. There are a few places where you'd think surfing is possible, and you'd be right--San Francisco's Doc Renneker attempted a slab or two a few years back (see story in Slide
magazine #16). They did it via boat, but it was far from a pleasure cruise among perfect points and idyllic coves.
Ultimately, our group failed. Two weeks of very long hours. The surfboards stayed in their bags. Fins were never screwed on. Days were spent eating hot dogs and seal meat, drinking Tuborg beer with the locals, watching high school basketball games, watching sappy movies on the Hallmark Channel in our hotel. Often the sky was low and cold, the wind sharp, and there was no way in or out of this colorful yet fairly ominous and depressing place.
Nobody has scored surf in Greenland. Renneker's crew did don wetsuits and catch a few, but it was hardly a "score." It seems hopeless to really get something meaningful on the world's biggest island.
Then a friend of mine emailed this image (above) to me, shot by his friend, who had been on a boat doing scientific research somewhere in Greenland.
The hunt remains.