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Antarctica has a distinct but very limited appeal as a surf destination. On the plus side it’s in the middle of the Southern Ocean, has more coastline than Australia, friendly Locals (Penguins) and it just screams super-fucking-crazy-adventure.
Surf-wise it’s still largely unknown. If you want to follow the intrepid footsteps of a surf pioneer like Peter Troy, Antarctica offers a clean white sheet. Sure it gets hysterically cold but nearly freezing to death is good for the mind, body and soul, according to the Iceman, Wim Hoff.
Ok, so you’ve made your decision. You’re going to Antarctica. Puff that chest out and grow a beard because very few humans even make it to this point. You now have three options. And a beard! You can depart from southern Chile and cross the notorious Drake Passage on a very expensive cruise ship. Or you can fly to the military base on King George Island and join a very expensive cruise ship there. Once on board you’ll have between seven and 30 days exploring the frozen continent, weather depending.
Unfortunately, you definitely can’t take a surfboard. Even if you managed to smuggle an inflatable craft onboard, you wouldn’t be able to just jump overboard and paddle to a little iceberg left. Antarctic operators follow very strict landing protocols and while some offer heli-skiing, and even scuba diving no one does surfing. So you have one option if you want to surf the frozen continent. You need a friend with a yacht and a wild streak.
Happily, you have to be a little crazy to own a yacht so you’re really just looking for a yacht. If its owner is recently divorced, unemployed, drinks too much, has a beard like Barton Lynch, or a glass eye then perfect. You’re set. Pack fishing rods, puffer jackets and heaps of those delicious Cup a Soups. Depart from your local harbour on a flow tide and follow the stars due south. Or use the satnav if you’re a bit of a wuss.
Allow two weeks to reach the ice. You will be busy throwing up most of the way but when you’re not it’s a good time to really research this whole Antarctica thing. Books about polar exploration will put hairs on your chest. Scott, Amundsen, Mawson, Hurley, Wild… these are your boys. Learn from them. How to cook penguin liver. What to do when your boat is crushed to splinters by ice. Upbeat jokes to share when your teeth shatter and your piss freezes. The Worst Journey in the World is a good one.
Let’s assume you get cold feet (you will) but still make it. Where do you start looking for waves at the frozen end of the earth? The Antarctic Peninsula is probably your best bet. South Pacific lows push in west swells and there are endless bays and islands to refract and refine. Unfortunately, the region’s icy katabatic winds are often so whippy they can out-blast hurricanes. Your first and lasting priority will be finding sheltered bays so your yacht doesn’t get smashed to bits and you don’t, you know, die.
Your best chance at riding something with a bit of size and power will probably be an iceberg wave. These occur when a large ice-cliff calves off a huge chunk of frozen water, which then creates a very random tidal wave. Think of it as a God taking a dump and you riding the resulting splash- back if you’re into religious fables. To catch an ice-splash you need to simply find an ice-cliff and wait for God or global warming to show up. It might take 30 minutes or 30 years.
To summarise, you will need time, luck, a yacht, warm socks, some books and an endless supply of Cup a Soups if you want to try and find rideable waves in Antarctica. Windows of opportunity will open for a few hours and then clamp shut for years. You won’t even get bragging rights because Ramon Navarro has already been down there and towed into a handful of stunningly bad ice waves. If you do go, you will be pushed beyond your breaking point and confront the question all modern-day explorers ask of themselves: why didn’t I just go to Bali?