Written by Sanna Juutilainen
There are some places that simply stun you. Northern Norway – land of mountains, fjords, midnight sun and northern lights, is one of those places. I have travelled there almost every year in Spring more than ten years now and still that place amazes me by it’s beauty. It’s a long drive from my hometown Tampere in Finland to get there, but those 1,200 kilometers are totally worth it. To have a place where I can freeski and sup in a same day is a paradise for me.
Tamokdalen area, way above the arctic circle, in Northern Norway, is a freeskier’s paradise and a hidden gem for sup. For freeskiing there are a number of perfect mountains with no crowds or lifts, (yet) so you really need to earn your powder turns by hiking up to your ski line. For sup’ing, the nearest fjord is Storfjord which is about 20 minutes drive from the ski base. Storfjord is a stunning place for paddling with a large fjord and crystal clear water surrounded by white snow-topped mountains. If you’re lucky you might be able to paddle with a porpoises which are a familiar sight there.
Many people think that sup is only for hot and sunny summer days with bikinis…Not for me. I sup year around, everywhere I go, in different kinds of weather conditions. Often people ask me if I’m afraid of cold water and the answer is NO. I do ice swimming (like a lot of Finns) weekly during the winter so I have gotten really used to cold water and also cold weather by living here in Nordic country where the temperature can drop below minus 20 degrees Celsius in Winter time.
When I sup in a cold water I wear a wetsuit with a windproof jacket and thick neoprene gloves, booties and waterproof socks. With that outfit I usually feel warm except from my toes which get cold first and tell me when to go back to the shore.
My toes are like a timer. In cold climate you really need to listen to your body and respect its messages during paddling. If I’m sup’ing alone in cold conditions I have someone watching me on the shore. I also check all the emergency exit points where I can land, if needed, and carry my cell phone in waterproof case. Safety is really important to me.
When we are talking about Norway we need to talk about the weather. There is saying that the best way to know the weather for the day in Norway is to look outside. Especially in the springtime weather changes very quickly and in a same day you might have everything between warm, cold, sunshine and a snowstorm.
During our stay we weren’t so lucky with the weather for sup. We had many days with strong winds or no visibility because of heavy snowfalls or fogs. Those days we spend freeskiing below the tree line and I was SUPing if there was even short period of moderate weather for paddling. I just love SUP and I could spend countless hours on board by exploring the nature.
Everyday I had my fingers crossed that we would have at least one sunny and windless day for SUPing. In a Springtime winds are usually strong so that was lot to ask for. Luckily Mother Nature was generous and gave us that one full day with perfect conditions.
First in the early morning we drove to the shore of Storfjord to noticed amazing view: sun was shining, sky was blue and all the mountains were reflected to the glassy water. That moment was magical. There is no words to describe the feeling when you are paddling in that kind of picturesque scenery in perfect conditions. Everything irrelevant disappears and you’re only concentrating to that moment, you’re like meditating. SUPing alone in a large fjord, middle of big mountains, makes you feel that you are part of the nature and realize how tiny you are in this magnificent world. It also teaches you to respect the nature and be thankful and humble to be part of it.
After a perfect SUP day we drove to our “secret spot” – not for SUPing but for dinner! From that part of the Storfjord you can collect blue mussels as much as you can eat during the low tide. We also tried to catch a codfish but weren’t lucky so we went to buy some fresh shrimps from the local fisherman. But before dinner we put our skiing clothes on and headed to the mountains for the evening. In April sun doesn’t set before 9 pm so we had plenty of time to hike in sunshine to the mountains and ski down in sunset.
These kind of days that you can spend on water by SUPing and on mountains by freeskiing, both in a same day, are my “dream come true” -days. Those days have drawn permanent mark to my soul and that’s why I keep on going back to Northern Norway year after year – never stop exploring!
Written by Sanna Juutilainen who is an ASI SUP instructor levels 1&2, SUP school owner, enthusiastic traveller and outdoor lover residing in Tampere Finland
Pictures by Taneli Brander
Location: Storfjord & Tamokdalen, Northern Norway