Meet Jørn Ranum, the arctic surfer who turned frozen sand into a skateboarder’s paradise
By Evan Goodfellow | Film+TV | 4 April 2017

Still from Northbound, Łukasz Zamaro

For most skateboarders and surfers growing up in cold climates, winter is spent devising escape plans to pursue their sport in the sun. Not so for Jørn Ranum, the Norwegian filmmaker, skateboarder and snowboarding enthusiast who captured his experiences of arctic surfing in the 2012 documentary North of the Sun. While filming one day, Jørn came in from the surf and discovered the area’s sand was frozen solid, sparking the idea for his latest project – the skate-fuelled short, Northbound.

Bringing skateboards to the area, Jørn and his team moulded the untouched terrain to their liking and filmed four skateboarders applying their urban skills to the most extreme of landscapes. Cue ollies to an otherworldly backdrop of frozen sand and pastel skies.

You can now watch the film in full on Vimeo (check it out below). To mark its online release, Jørn reflects on his wild experiences, and how it all came about.

Evan: I was checking out your previous work before Northbound and discovered your film North of the Sun, about surfing up north near the arctic. Can you tell me about that?
A friend and I went out to this remote beach, and we decided we wanted to stay there for the fall, winter, and spring. We built a house out of driftwood and whatever we could find on the beach. We brought our surfboards and just lived there and surfed and went snowboarding all winter.

Evan: From the trailer it look like your house was a log cabin built into rocks?
Yes, we tried to place it where it would be sheltered from all the strong winds because the winds can be so strong in that area that sometimes the wind just rips off roofs of houses. We were really scared that this would happen to our small house so we built it as sheltered as possible and we also wanted to keep it hidden in the landscape so that people hiking or going to this area wouldn’t be able to see it. We didn’t want to destroy the wildness when you went there. 

Evan: How were you able to surf in such cold water?
My first time surfing was up there so we’re kind of use to it. Of course you need a thick wetsuit with a hoodie and gloves and boots. The only thing really exposed to the elements is your face, so surprisingly you stay warm but you do feel it the first duck dive when you go under the ways to paddle out. You really get a brain freeze and the first 10 minutes are horrible, but after that it’s really okay. You can surf for like three or four hours depending on how active you are. If you’re really stoked and you have a really long session your feet feel like they have disappeared because you can’t feel them, then it’s really time to get out.

Evan: So you got the idea for Northbound while you were making that film?
Jørn: Yeah, it was during a cold winter session one day. It was one of the coldest days of the year and there had just been a storm, so the waves were coming up higher on the shore and all of the sand was completely wet. We had been out surfing for four hours that day and when I came back up on shore the sand was just rock solid. You could jump on it, or throw stones on it and it wasn’t affected. That’s when I had the idea to bring a skateboard into into that environment. I had it in the back of my head for a very long time because even though I felt how hard it was I wasn’t quite sure if it was going to work. A couple of years later I had a chance to try it out when we had a really cold period. Then the idea just started to grow and I had the idea of building a mini ramp. 

“It was one of the coldest days of the year and there had just been a storm, so the waves were coming up higher on the shore and all of the sand was completely wet. When I came back up on shore the sand was just rock solid.”


Evan: For the video did you have to wait for a storm to come in to make the sand like that?
No, we just decided to skate closer to the shore between low and high tides and it worked perfectly.

Evan: I never thought sand would be that hard. How long did it take you guys to build the 1/2 pipe?
We spent two days building it because we did it in stages so that it could really freeze. Four of us built it and then the last day the whole crew arrived to help with the final touches.

Evan: The only thing you couldn’t do on the ramp was grind?
Yes, but if it would been a little bit colder we would have been able to. We actually tested this first inside a big warehouse where they freeze food. We layered the edge with ice and it grinded. 

Evan: You’ve attracted a lot of views for a small, independent film.
Jørn: Yes, the cool thing is Tony Hawk shared the film on Facebook which was really cool. Also Shaun White shared it and Terje Haakonsen, who is a really big snowboarder, shared it.

‘Northbound’ is now available to watch on Vimeo, here


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