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“Stop The Greedy Fuckers Ruining One of The Best Waves in Iceland”

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Yesterday, Þorlakshöfn’s council begun earthworks on a breakwall for a cruise-ship mega port, despite not receiving any official approval to do so. Local surfers rushed down to the wave to protest, which stopped the construction – but as soon as they jumped in the water they tried to start again. The local officials were contacted and nobody owned up to authorising the work. This took place on a Sunday morning, when there were waves – “it’s not even under the radar, it’s just like a slap in the face to the local surf community,” resident Steve Wall told Stab.

The best hope for Þorlakshöfn’s surf community is to reach a compromise, whereby the port’s planned footprint gets cut back to something less destructive to the wave in question. “We need to protect one of the best waves in Iceland,” photographer Elli Thor Magnusson plead.

Steinarr Lar, President of the Icelandic Surfing Association, whose tried to kept his favorite spot hush up until this point is out of moves. He’d rather make noise about the spot than have it destroyed forever — it’s a similar conflict of interest Canary Islands (shipping port), Barbuda (lux resort) and King Island (salmon farming) locals faced in recent years.

Words by Steve Wall

At the heart of Iceland’s rugged beauty lies Þorlakshöfn, a town known not only for its breathtaking scenery but also for its thriving surf community. Nestled along the southern coast, Þorlakshöfn’s rugged coastline offers surfers a rare gift—consistency and quality waves that rival any other spot on the island.

For years, this tranquil town has remained a well-kept secret among locals and the Icelandic surf tribe. It’s an easy day trip from the bustling urban centers of Iceland, making it the perfect meeting point and social hub for the island’s surf enthusiasts. The wave itself is reminiscent of many soft, peeling pointbreaks found in northern NSW.

Despite its popularity within the surfing community, Þorlakshöfn has been fiercely guarded against excessive exposure. Foreign and local productions have been met with a deliberate effort to keep the town’s charm intact. Þorlakshöfn has played a central role in numerous surf films, but for years, locals grappled with the dilemma of preserving their cherished spot while witnessing the development encroaching upon their waves.

The town’s surf break is located at the southern edge, adjacent to a port that has been expanding relentlessly for the past decade. The rationale behind this expansion is clear—an economic boost driven by the shipping industry. Ships bound for central Europe, Denmark, or the UK find Þorlakshöfn a convenient port of call, saving them the voyage around the southwestern corner to Reykjavik or Keflavik, where primary shipping infrastructure resides.

However, the development’s reception among the local community is decidedly mixed. Increased heavy vehicle traffic, inevitable accidents on roads shared by tourists and trucks, towering new buildings in Þorlakshöfn that dwarf existing structures, and the noise and disruption of industrial-scale processing facilities within the town have raised concerns among residents.

This issue mirrors a global challenge: the trade-off between creating jobs and expanding the economy at the cost of irreversibly altering the landscape and the town’s sacred essence for the surf community.

The next phase of the harbor expansion involves dredging the inner edge of the southern harbor wall to create a deepwater turning area for large ships. Dumping dredged sediment near the surf break is a matter of convenience and cost efficiency for the developers.

In the long term, plans are afoot to push the harbor walls several hundred meters further south, gradually, to avoid triggering an environmental impact assessment (EIA) as required in Iceland. This incremental approach raises questions about the project’s overall impact on the environment and the community.

Iceland, a land of natural wonder, is also a place where deep pockets and connections sometimes circumvent regulations. While generally regarded as progressive, Iceland has seen projects built without approval, creating a divide between perception and reality.

In Þorlakshöfn, local councils and federal authorities share planning authority, providing local councils considerable autonomy. The environmental office is closely monitoring the situation, hinting at possible legal action if an agreeable solution isn’t reached soon.

Communication between surfers and the council has revealed a reluctance to make concessions in the harbor expansion’s design, as it clashes with preserving the surf break. This ongoing struggle between the surf community and developers appears set to continue.

It came to a head yesterday when they commenced earthworks on the site, on a Sunday, while surfers were in the water.

The driving force behind this development is Mayor Elliði Vignisson of Ölfus. He currently faces scrutiny over potential conflicts of interest with resource and construction companies involved in scaling up the port. Rumors suggest he’s prioritizing the interests of the German cement company Heidelberg over his constituents, considering that he lives rent-free in one of their properties in his own town—a company poised to reap significant benefits if the development proceeds.

In the midst of this clash between commerce and surf, Þorlakshöfn’s waves stand as both a prized treasure and a symbol of the eternal struggle between progress and preservation, echoing the challenges faced by coastal communities worldwide.

Source: STAB

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