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This past spring, filmmaker Yassine 'Yazzy' Ouhilal and a crew of four other surfers went on an epic month-long surfing expedition north of the Arctic Circle. A film documenting their adventure will be shown at the Atlantic Film Festival on Thursday. Photo courtesy of Yassine Ouhilal, www.yazzyphoto.com

Surfing under the midnight sun

This past spring, filmmaker Yassine 'Yazzy' Ouhilal and a crew of four other surfers went on an epic month-long surfing expedition north of the Arctic Circle. A film documenting their adventure will be shown at the Atlantic Film Festival on Thursday. Photo courtesy of Yassine Ouhilal, www.yazzyphoto.com

This past spring, filmmaker Yassine “Yazzy” Ouhilal and a crew of four other surfers went on an epic month-long surfing expedition north of the Arctic Circle. A film documenting their adventure will be shown at the Atlantic Film Festival on Thursday. | Photo courtesy of Yassine Ouhilal, www.yazzyphoto.com | To read an interview with Yazzy along with some more photos from his Arctic surf expedition, CLICK HERE

When it comes to surfing, the farther north you go, the smaller the crowds.

This past spring, accomplished surf photographer and filmmaker Yassine Ouhilal and a crew of four other surfers went about as far north as you can possibly go to surf uncrowded breaks.

In fact, they went so far north they were above the Arctic Circle in the land of the midnight sun where they rode waves in the middle of the night on breaks that had never been surfed before.

Ouhilal documented this epic month-long surf expedition in a nine-minute film called Arctic Surf that will be screened this Thursday at the Atlantic Film Festival.

(To read an interview with Yazzy along with some more photos from his Arctic surf expedition, click here)

The expedition began in April in northern Norway. Ouhilal, who lives near Lawrencetown Beach, was joined by Australian Mathew Whitehead and three Californians – Christian Wach, Patrick Millin and Cyrus Sutton.

Sutton, also an accomplished filmmaker, was in Halifax last November during the screening of his film Under the Sun.

“Everyone was very easy going which is key for a trip like this…To spend 44 days in a cold and harsh environment with a group of people can turn sour pretty quick if you’re not with the right kind of crew,” said Ouhilal.

For most of the expedition, the crew lived out of a restored fisherman’s cabin in the Norwegian fishing village Kraemmervika. From there, the crew hopped on more than 20 flights, drove over 10,000 kilometres and travelled through ice and snow to get to undiscovered surf breaks on the shores of the Arctic Ocean.

Being that they were the first to surf some of the breaks, the crew got to name a few spots one of which they called “Discos”, a spot they surfed at midnight during a snow shower.

Nearing the end of their journey the crew crossed into Russia with hopes of surfing on the Barents Sea. However, some of the communist-era bureaucracy still exits in that part of the world and the crew was unable to get the proper permits to access the coastline.

“It was definitely at this point we kind of all looked at each other and began asking ourselves ‘What are we doing here?’” said Ouhilal. “We had gone to that extreme to try and surf new places and we were beginning to question if perhaps we had gone a bit too far.”

Returning to Norway, Ouhilal and Whitehead managed to score a tank ride from a Norwegian soldier who took them to a river mouth where a break, if surfed, would cross the Norway-Russia border.

“We thought about surfing across the border on that beach…but had we done that, we would have had to suffer pretty dire consequences,”said Ouhilal. “I do think it could be done as long as it was prearranged with the appropriate authorities.”

The expedition ended with a stellar tube-filled surf session at a break that looked “like Indonesia, stuffed into a freezer,” according to Millin.

“We came back to Norway from Russia just in time to score the best swell of the entire trip, and the very last day was absolutely perfect,” said Ouhilal. “This left point turned on with barreling waves and nobody else out – it definitely made it all worthwhile.”

Arctic Surf will be screened on Thursday, September 24 at 7 p.m. at the Park Lane 8. It will be shown along with more than a dozen other films in the festival’s Atlantic Shorts VIII program.

Tickets are $10 each and can be purchased online or at one the festival’s box office locations.

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