Sea Kayaking in the Land of Ice and Fire

4-minute read

By: Rachel Bott

It’s always a joy to explore a coastline from the perspective of a sea kayak; not only for the unique view of a marine environment, but it also allows the person bobbing along to feel, smell and experience the flow of the land as it meets the rhythm of the ocean. As a vehicle to explore new horizons, a sea kayak is right up at the top of the list for me.

Sea Kayak Iceland Symposium

Mid-May saw coaches from all over the worldWales, England, America, Poland, Northern Ireland and Iceland to name but a fewattend Iceland’s annual Sea Kayak Festival. Over sixty participants and a gaggle of coaches taught, explored, learned and connected for three fun-filled days. The location was Arnastapi, West Iceland, activities for the event included surf, rock-hopping, boat handling, exploring the coastlines, and the coach/participant’s daily choice. The conditions for the weekend were quite bouncy, so much so that we relocated for one of the days. 

International instructors at the symposium.

The coastline is awash with relics from a tectonically turbulent past, lava flows spill over the cliffs into the water where they continued their charge until momentum was overpowered by the ocean. The columnar jointing of the basalt columns has created hexagonal giants in the landscape through which waterfalls burst and the eye can’t help but linger to understand the huge formations so regular in creation against the chaotic lumps of ancient lava. 

The conditions for the festival included a fair amount of wind and lots of swell, what you might expect for an island exposed to so much ocean. We were even blessed with sunshine on the final day and luckily the snow held out until that evening (brrrr!).

Event organiser and Chief of Sea Kayak Iceland Gudni Pall Viktorsson.

The wildlife in this part of Iceland is dominated by an abundance of birdlife, from the unmistakable drumming (created by the tail feathers) of Snipe, to the familiar trill of the Curlew and many more. On the water, Kittiwake and Fulmar nest on the rocky ledges conveniently positioned by the columnar pillars, in high numbers they dominate the upper walls and arches. Razorbills and Black Guillemots are plentiful and Puffins are also seen rafted on the water however their numbers are really appreciated when kayaking further north and especially around the Hornstrandir National Park.

In the water we were joined by inquisitive harbour seals and almost a whale, if a far away wave breaking on an off-shore reef counts as almost. Due to the size of the swell, we enjoyed an alternative coastline further north on the first day of the festival, on this day Orca were seen moving past in the afternoon at the same location. It’s a shame we were all having too much fun playing on the ‘elevator’ style swells along the coast to cast an eye out to the deeper water.

For the remainder of the festival we launched out of the local harbour, a tiny access point usually busy with fishing boats and wool-jumper wearing sea folk. Luckily for us they are not permitted to fish over the weekends, it’s a good job really as there were just a few boats in the way…

After a brilliant few days there really wasn’t much left to do other than wave goodbye and head to the hot pools, well when in Rome…

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