Hot springs, volcanoes, moonlike landscapes and a surprisingly common belief in elves are just some of the unique features that bring close to a million tourists to Iceland each year. For professional photographer and paddleboarder, Franz Orsi, it was the endless summer days and opportunity to shoot surf, river and lake paddling all in one location that brought him to the land of ice and fire.
On a road trip around the small island nation, the globetrotting Starboard athlete experienced some of the warmest days Iceland offers (a sweltering 60 degrees Fahrenheit), as well as days that bottomed out at just 41 degrees Fahrenheit, with water temperatures hovering around the same.
“Everything about the trip was extreme—extreme weather, extreme landscape, and everything changes super quickly.” says Orsi.
Orsi got in touch with Iceland’s very small community of surfers (“Not more than 20 or 25,” he says) and contacted its four windsurfers to get beta on the best spot to catch surf. “None of them had tried standup before. One of the guys was very interested and started paddling afterwards—he’s probably the first standup paddler in Iceland,” jokes Orsi.
This photo was taken shortly after midnight near the shore of a glacial lagoon. Though there had been perfect surf and light for photos, the water was full of ice. “It was so close to the glaciers that little bits of ice were floating in the water and extremely sharp,” says Orsi.
In this photo, Orsi and road trip partner and pro surfer, Filippo Orso, are seen just after their surf session. “He’s making fun because of the size of my board of course,” says Orsi. It was a spontaneous moment—“two people sharing passion for the water, but divided by their passion for their own sports.”
While Orsi loves capturing on-water action, it’s off the water where the magic happens. “What’s been really interesting to me about standup is documenting the lifestyle. It’s related to the crazy action sports, but there’s also another side of the sport, of exploration and enjoyment.”
Standup paddling offers new perspectives of looking at the world, says Orsi. “It enables me to get to places and into situations that I would never go. It’s such a simple way of travel—even rudimentary—that it breaks down barriers with people I’d otherwise never meet.”
In his minimalist travel kit, Orsi packs two Nikon digital SLRs, a waterproof-housing unit, and two lenses, including a telephoto.
“There’s no way to shoot a standup trip with a lot of gear,” he says. “There’s a saying I always have in mind before a trip: pack light and you’ll go farther.” See more of Orsi’s work on Instagram at @supnomad.
This article originally appeared in the 2016 Paddling Buyer’s Guide issue.
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