There is something majestic about kiting in wild landscapes. It's a feeling that is hard to describe: that we, as humans, are just a needle in a haystack. Not just looking at the elements, but literally absorbing and playing with them.
In July last year, I began to start ticking unique locations and landscapes off my bucket list with the support of my sponsors. My journey started in the northern part of the Netherlands, where I joined Captain Johan on a ship to Norway.
For our project, The Last Line (www.thelastline.nl), there are many locations that we want to visit. Included on this bucket list of spots is Greenland, Siberia, Tornado Alley, and the Maldives. All of these locations have their own specific story that we believe must be told.
For this particular journey, we chose the Arctic Circle. I knew I wanted to visit this polar landscape to chase the Northern Lights and kitesurf underneath it. Witnessing this natural phenomenon has always been a childhood dream, and I couldn't miss the opportunity to realise that. My sponsors really liked the idea, but they challenged me to do the entire adventure in a carbon-free way... Challenge accepted!!
I am a person that likes tough challenges and one-of-a-kind adventures, and I look at obstacles as new chances. My mind was going full-throttle to work out a way to make this happen. First, we needed to get the crew together. Joining me would be photographer Rein Rijke, a creative mind with the drive and talent to capture the perfect shot. The group would also include Kiwi Aerial Shots, Tom van Oijen and Kim Hoogervorst, an experienced film production team specialised in views from above. It was the same crew from our adventure in Iceland, and we were already well-matched with our ideas and perspectives.
Normally, you would book a plane ticket and accommodation and arrive at the kite spot the next day to pump up and ride. This time, it would be completely different. When I told the crew of the carbon-free challenge, they laughed. Of course, they were great sports and were quick to join the planning.
To achieve our challenge, the first step was to change our mindsets. After weeks of preparation, we finally found the perfect plan. We would travel from the Netherlands to the south of Norway on a sailing boat for 72 hours (if everything would go according plan). Then, take an electric train to the Arctic Circle, which would take 36 hours, and finally, rent an electric car and drive for another 12 hours. To put this crazy adventure in perspective, a flight would only take us 3 hours.
With the help of our experienced sailor, Johan, we checked the wind forecast hourly until we spotted a perfect gap. We would have three days before the storm arrived, but if we sailed quickly enough, we would stay ahead of it. We sailed non-stop, taking turns to keep watch on the radar and navigation to avoid any obstacles. I must admit that sailing through the night with a clear sky, shooting stars, and a constant breeze is something magical. Unfortunately, that was only the first night. The storm arrived faster than expected, and the next two nights, we had rain, 2.5m swell, and 22-33 knots of wind. Summarised into 1 word; a nightmare hahaha
We had set off on October 6th. Even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, this particular journey was even easier than 'normal' travel. Because we would be isolated with a permanent crew for several days, we effectively served our own quarantine en route. After 72 hours of non-stop sailing, we finally arrived in Kristiansand, where we stayed several days on board in the harbour to finish our quarantine.
The next portion of the journey was to board a train headed towards the Arctic Circle. We entertained ourselves by playing card games, reading books, drinking litres of subpar train coffee, and attempting to sleep. When we finally arrived in the North, we picked up our electric car and went in search of our accommodation. We were slightly concerned when we realised that there is no EV charging station anywhere in the vicinity. Luckily, we found an extension cord and could charge the car via our 220V electric plug powered by wind energy. We were still on track and staying true to our mission!
The following day, we decided to head out early to catch the worms. We wanted to make the most out of every day. We had to pay close attention to our distance travelled, as we could only charge the battery at home. The cold drained the battery quickly. Often, we would return home with only 8 km of range left.
The Article Circle is home to insanely beautiful locations to kite in. This place has so much to offer! Every corner is mind-blowing, its nature is overwhelming, and every little bay has its own micro-climate. It can be rainy with no wind in one bay, while 30 km further, there's sunshine and a perfect 16-knot breeze.
I had packed several kites to ensure I could kite in any conditions that we might encounter. I had my Lieuwe Shotgun 138 twin tip. It is my go-to board for every single condition. It’s a fast and early plaining board that feels super comfortable to my feet in tricky conditions.
We spent most of our time riding and shooting in the most unreal locations. We were blown away by nearly every photo captured. Still, as much gold as the photo and video team had collected, we had not yet achieved our primary goal and the reason we had travelled so far and for so long.
Every night (after a full day of shooting), we left the house at around 10 pm, drove to the spot, and waited for the lights to reveal themselves, ready to kite. Unfortunately, we couldn't see any light at all. Often, it was too cloudy for the lights to be visible, or there were just no lights. We would wait until 3 am hoping that we would get to see these colourful lights dance across the sky, but we had to balance that with the need to get some sleep for the next early morning.
For 8 days straight, we followed this routine. Waiting in the chilly, dark night to see the Northern Lights. At one point, looking at the forecast, it showed cloud, rain, and a 2% chance of seeing the lights. Knowing we may never get the opportunity to return to this place again, we waited, as hopeless as it seemed. The sky remained dark, and the disappointment was palpable. We couldn't avoid reality any longer. The boat was waiting to take us back home.
We cannot control mother nature. I realised that while being on this trip. During these adventures, I am trying to push my own boundaries and those of the industry. I want to ride the best gear out there and capture exceptional moments in kiting that have not been seen before. Planning and making sure that everything is correct does not automatically mean that you can achieve your goals. Mother Nature has to be on your side.
On our way back to the boat, we stopped overnight near the ocean to get some sleep. Around midnight, I was too eager to go to sleep, having trained myself to be awake until the early hours throughout the trip. I walked outside to have a look at the night sky for the very last time, and I couldn't believe my eyes. It was as if I was tripping. There was some sort of green fire dancing across the entire sky, moving from left to right in the most elegant way.
I stood there for a few minutes before I realised that I was looking at the freaking NORTHERN LIGHTS!! I rushed back inside, scrambled to get the crew together, and we piled into the car with all our gear and cameras. We most certainly broke a few speed limits in our rush to the spot. Once we arrived, we realised that there was no wind... not one puff.
Still, the moment was so incredibly peaceful. The temperature was a few degrees below freezing; there was no wind, no sound, no people... only us, standing beneath the Northern Lights. What else would you need to be happy, I guess?!
Standing there and gazing towards the most unique natural phenomenon was something I will never forget. It is something I would suggest anyone to try to witness. It is 100% worth it to give it a shot, even though you might not see.. it is 120% worth it!!!