Sea kayaking in Northern Norway

Paddla havskajak i Nordnorge

Arctic Sea Kayak Ramble

Along the rugged Norwegian coast, just north of Lofoten, lies the Vesterålen archipelago. The county, the county, is called Nordland. One of the larger islands in this archipelago is called Andöya, known as the starting point for whale safaris out into the North Atlantic. Nature is magnificent to say the least. The terrain is almost like a wild alpine landscape with high mountains that plunge steeply into the sea alternating with low islands with sandy beaches. Just outside Andöya is Tindsöya. Here in a secluded bay is Skipnes, a depopulated fishing village with a closed small fishing factory. With Skipnes as a base, a meeting was organized here annually for kayakers from all over the world; Arctic Sea Kayak Ramble. And here came a group of enthusiastic sea paddlers from Brunnsvikens canoe club in Stockholm.

Northern Norway paddling
The base for the Arctic Sea Kayak Ramble, the depopulated fishing village of Skipnes on Tindsöya in Nordland County in northernmost Norway. In the sunshine it looks really idyllic. But no fishing boats land at the quay anymore.

Exotic and exciting for southerners

With a fully loaded canoe in tow, we get to experience how big, in any case oblong, our country is. We think we are there when we reach Narvik. But the narrow country road that takes an infinite number of bends from here winds around the mountains on one side and the sea on the other further up towards Vesterålen, never seems to end. Our goal is Kråkberget, a jetty in a fjord surrounded by high mountains. It is drizzling and blowing strongly. From here, the next day, we will paddle just under a mile out to Tindsöya. We crouch in our tents, well anchored in ropes against the wind. When we paddle out to the final destination, the wind has died down a bit, but rain and breaks replace each other. An escort boat takes our luggage. It is the month of July, full summer in Stockholm, but here we are far north of the Arctic Circle in almost arctic conditions with temperatures of 10-14 degrees. There are frequent breaks, but daily rain showers are replaced by snow or hail showers. The wind is constantly fresh alternating with gales. For us it's exotic and exciting, for the local paddlers everyday food.

The waves of the Atlantic are getting high

About a hundred paddlers gather at the harbor bay. The participants come from many different countries, mainly Europeans but also from other continents. A long day trip awaits us. And we get to feel the waves of the Atlantic. But the first hours are deceptively calm. On the shores of the small island of Sandholmen lies a lot of colorful kayaks pulled up when we rest. It gives a festive impression. People are happy, excited and well-furred. We come out on the wide, open Börröyfjord. Fortunately, considering the balance, this will be upwind paddling on a straight westerly course. Because suddenly the swells rise like a steep wall in front of us. In the wave valleys the view is non-existent, on the breathtaking wave tops the entire North Atlantic seems to lie in front of us. A rocking escort boat picks up those who capsize. We round the steep high mountain Tinden and relax when we escape the worst waves. Once ashore, several paddlers pack up and leave the event early. It was simply too much and too difficult for some participants.

Rest in the lee of the wind before we head out into the Börröyfjord. Lots of colorful kayaks are laid out on the small island of Sandholmen.

In the realm of the wild

It is not only the landscape around us that is wild. We are truly in the realm of the wild. Animal life is richly represented. Scores of sea eagles, often in pairs, sail high above us and along the mountain sides. The Nordic parrots, the Puffins, surprisingly fearlessly dive for food just a few meters from the kayaks. They come up with small fish hanging from their colorful beaks and watch us with their squinting friendly eyes. A porpoise makes a long jump just in front of our bows. The waters are rich in whales but unfortunately we don't see any.

Tinden's trading booth and post office

Below the mountain Tinden crouch a few white-painted houses. Here there is a trade stall as well as a post office. Handelsman, 85 years young, eagerly waves us in for a visit as we paddle past. He is a well-known profile in the area. If you want to shop, you put money in the open cash register and change the money yourself. For an almost symbolic sum, waffles are offered while the merchant tells stories. From a special freezer, he displays some deep-frozen trophies; a seal, a sea eagle and a Christmas tree.

A Russian shipwreck and warm clothes

A trip for us across the swaying open Börröyfjord to Skogsöya. On the way back, we pass the wreck of a Russian warship lying upside down next to a sker. On the side, local jokers have made a mini-submarine out of large rocks that is said to have sunk the ship. A week of intensive sea paddling ends with the unofficial world marathon championship for sea ​​kayaks . Some club mates stand up. We older paddlers refrain. The course is too exposed, it runs partly on the open sea and feels too risky. And unnecessarily long. Instead, we paddle at a leisurely pace back to Kråkberget, enjoy the fantastic landscape and nature experience, and take the other participants to a hotel in Sortland, which is the nearest municipal centre. Joint banquet with award ceremony. And warm rooms. For the first time in a week, after a hot shower, we can put on really dry clothes. And we avoid the only functioning shower, with ice-cold fjord water, at Skipnes.