Not many women form a bond over icy cold waters, numb toes and blizzards. Except in Norway, where Maria Petersson caught up with a couple of her Lofoten surf crew – Lisa Blom and Unn Haukenes Holgersen – to find out what drew them to the Arctic waves.

So, what brought you both to the Arctic?
Lisa: I have always followed my heart, and it has taken me surfing in so many stunning places where I’ve met amazing people. My daughter Lova is now six, and up until now she’s been travelling with me and my surfing husband, Nils. This autumn she starts school, so we needed, for the first time, to make a plan that would last for more than a few months. Being close to nature and surfing is important to us, and it’s not enough to do it at the weekend or once in a while – it´s a lifestyle. We need it to feel well, and we also want to share this with Lova. In Lofoten, we found it all, and I feel comfortable saying that I can stay here for a while. We have high-quality waves around the corner and spectacular mountains in our backyard – and we share it all with beautiful people that have the same core values.

Unn: Well, the first time I heard about Lofoten was in 2007, when I first met my husband. He had just returned from Lofoten, and more or less said that if it didn’t work out with us, he would move to Lofoten and get a dog. However, I am happy to say it went quite well. We both spent a lot of time in Lofoten during the following years and got hooked. After nine years of working, travelling and taking a degree in Spain, we finally ended up moving to Lofoten, with two dogs in the luggage as well.

How did you two meet?
Lisa: Unn and I met in another surfing town in Norway, Stavanger, a few years ago. Back then we were a whole bunch of girls of different ages that were surfing, skating and doing heaps of fun things together. We called ourselves the Boob Squad, to make fun of the more serious local male crew – the Bomb Squad.

Unn: I met Lisa in 2006/2007 when I moved to Stavanger. I got invited to join a girl-surfer group, the Boob Squad. The group was organised by Inger Elin Knappskog, the best female surfer in Norway at that time and here I got to know Lisa. I remember she was this crazy Swedish surfer, always charging, going for the biggest possible waves! It was inspiring to see Lisa surf; she always pushed the limits, which made all of us girls push our boundaries as well. It’s different seeing a girl charge in heavy waves, than a boy. It makes you think: “if she can do it, then I can do it as well.” Or: “if she survives that, then I should too!” So, I would say that Lisa´s surfing inspired and raised the level of female surfing in Stavanger to a different level. After some years in Stavanger, our lives went in different directions. I started my studies in Spain, and Lisa moved to Sweden to start a family. So, it was crazy to suddenly learn that we both were moving to Lofoten, at the same time, to the same place. It’s strange how life works.

What is the most challenging part of surfing in Lofoten?
Lisa: Most people now think I would say the cold temperatures; but that honestly doesn’t bother me. Instead I would say the lack of daylight in winter.

Unn: I’d say the weather. It’s crazy changing into your wetsuit when it’s minus degrees in the air, wind and snow. When you’ve been out too long you can’t feel your feet, and when the water in the thermos gets cold you can´t defrost your toes before driving home. Or in desperation you pee in your suit, only to learn that’s not a good idea and goes cold like crazy fast! And finally, getting so cold that you doubt you can run back to the car. So, in general, the cold is the most challenging part for me when surfing in the north. However, I love the nature, the silence, the waves, the people and atmosphere surfing here, and would never change this for anything in the world!

Is there a big female surf community?
Lisa: Yes, and at all levels. The girls that impress me the most are the beginners. I mean, it’s one thing starting off surfing in warm water and something different learning it here.

At first, when I was up here in 2007, there was only one hardcore girl surfing here, Jannicke Aasen. She had lived one year at an island further north, charging big waves and surfing on her own, also during winter and polar nights. She has to be the first girl ever to surf up there and was the only female surfer I knew in Lofoten at that time. However, the past few years, a lot of young people have moved up here, and the girls’ surfing community has grown fast and I guess we now have around 20-30 active girls eager to learn and progress. So that’s cool, for a cold, cold place like this.

What do you do for fun?
Lisa: I run in the mountains. It gives me a great nature experience, and just like surfing you need to be present in what you do — the paths here are rocky and steep. The winter is fantastic; then you can surf both waves and down snowy mountains. Lofoten is like a big playground for grownups!

Unn: I am a newbie addicted skateboarder. I love it so much! I try to spend as much time as possible at the skate-ramp or the park. The girls’ skate community has also grown, and we try to connect and engage the girls in Lofoten by arranging female skate sessions when we can. Besides that, there’s snowboarding, climbing and music when I have the spare time.

Girls supporting girls, right?
Lisa: Always! I love being in the water with girls, and I get inspired by them in a way a male surfer can’t.

Unn: Yeah, that’s important! I would say most of my inspiration to start surfing, advance or push myself into bigger waves comes from watching, surfing or talking to other girl surfers. Seeing girls in Norway or when travelling, made everything possible. Also, the international level has leapt up a notch now, taking surfing to a whole other level, which must be an excellent inspiration for girl surfers these days. And it’s the same thing with skateboarding. So, get on the board girls, and have fun!

Lisa how was Lofoten during the pandemic, how were you affected?
Lisa: Lofoten has been like a little safe-zone during the pandemic. And we been so lucky to have been able to live almost as normal during the whole period. Also amazing that have the mountains and ocean so close by and been able to enjoy the nature the whole time. I am so grateful for that, knowing that so many friends out there been locked in.

This interview appeared in a previous issue of SurfGirl.