Growing up in Canada, the word ‘cold’ is something people get used to, and, if not, they hopefully dress right for the outdoors so they can get out and adventure. Personally, I'm not sure if I ever get used to the cold, but one thing I know for sure, it makes me feel alive. It gives me a heightened awareness that awakens and electrifies the soul. Wind, rain, snow, ice-cold water–it sure can take you to some wild and beautiful places.
Usually, in the fall on the west coast of Canada, it's moving into the rainy season, then winter. Many people, including myself, escape to a warmer climate before the cold weather truly hits. This fall was a different story for me. I was invited to go to Iceland in November, which is also their winter season. I've always dreamed about going to Iceland, so I jumped at the opportunity.
Iceland is the land of dramatic landscapes. It's like being on another planet with all its unique and rugged contrast, from mountain peaks and volcanos to geysers and hot springs, lava fields and massive glaciers pouring out to the ocean. Nature flourishes, and the Northern lights put on colourful light shows.
Iceland's diversity was showcased in our quest from the mountains to the Ocean. Water and breath were the themes of our project. Showing how they are both crucial and linked to survival and adventure. This was the focus of our work (passion) project on this incredible island and country - the land of 'fire and ice.'
Our project team consisted of Tim Emmett, Ice Climber and SUP Surfer Adventurer Extraordinaire; Luca Malaguti, Free Diver, who has broken the Canadian record with dives to 85 meters; and Brian Hockenstein, Filmer, Adventurer, and Explorer, who joined us to help capture this magical journey. Brian was also collecting footage for another project called the Air We Breathe, which will be released later. I joined as a photographer and athlete. Like the others, I contributed in any way possible to our overall goals. We accomplished what we set out to do because we collaborated and supported each other, making this a passionate and exciting pursuit.
Enduring the elements, we went from ice climbing to icebergs and SUP paddle exploring to surfing, free diving between tectonic plates to dipping into the freezing cold waters. Linking together all the elements of nature in their finest forms. Having the right gear drove us into the world of cold and extreme weather and, in the end, made it all possible. Stand-up inflatable paddleboards let us break through the ice to access and climb icebergs and surf the untamed coast of Icelandic waters. Having dry suits was the key to staying warm and dry when winter paddling and free diving suits allowed us to survive the freezing cold waters. There’s also the world of warm under layers like merino wool and good old waterproof Gore-Tex gear, for which I’m grateful and dry bags are essential for carrying all the important gear. Being prepared can make anything possible and make anyone capable of going out in any weather condition. In Iceland, the weather has its own plan. It will shift from wind that will rip the door off a car to rain that slashes sideways and requires goggles to see. Snowstorms come at any minute of the day, making for a climate of intense, constant change. The locals say that to know the forecast, check every 15 minutes. The weather at any time could make me feel alive or humbled as I pushed into the unknown and got out there, rain or shine.
To Iceland, the people, the culture, the landscape - "thank-you."
Words & photos - Jimmy Martinello