Magnificent waterfalls, snow capped mountains and endless glassy fjords... SUP touring in the Norwegian fjords is an awe inspiring experience. Do it right, avoiding the most common pit-falls and you'll certainly have a SUP adventure of a lifetime. Titus Kodzoman, the founder of SUP Norway shares his local knowledge and top tips for SUP touring in this stunning wilderness...
1. Research & Planning
You can make or break your trip before you even arrive. Plan thoroughly and have a ‘worse case scenario’ exit strategy for each and every paddle. Know your capabilities and plan with a good safety margin for the weakest member of your group.
As always, local knowledge is everything. Norwegians all speak English so be sure to get local advice on weather, your intended route and any potential hazards.
That iSUP you bought from the superstore isn’t going to cut it. Your gear should be up to the job and a purpose built touring board is a must. For a 1-4 day tour expect to carry 15-25Kg of gear including a pump and extra paddles. Have quality safety gear, supplies for spares and repairs, a comprehensive first-aid kit and the knowledge how to use it effectively. All gear should be waterproofed tied down or float. Use a leash and PFD every paddle, ’nuff said!
There can be stretches for several Km on a fjord where it is impossible to land so know the area where you will paddle and be prepared. Do not rely on internet 3D maps to gauge gradients or to establish suitability for landing sites. Paddle close to the sides of the fjord and cross at right angles. Always keep your group tight and avoid ferry routes. Waterfall water is abundant and clean, a water bottle with a filter is still a good idea.
In the fjords, you may not always have a signal. A mobile phone cannot be relied upon as a safety device. Leave your passage plan with some one that will miss you if you do not arrive as scheduled.
With sheer mountains and narrow fjords, predicting weather can be tricky. A forecast of 5 kts can (and often does) turn into a 25Kts headwind with little or no warning. Forecasted wind directions can change due to the wind being funnelled and redirected though the fjords and mountains. Again get local advice and get forecasts from at least two different sources.
6. Camp sites
In Norway we have ‘allemannsrett’ (every man’s right). It’s in the constitution that any private person (Non commercial) can stay for 2 nights on uncultivated land as long as it is more than 150 meters from the nearest dwelling. On the more popular fjords, if you find a beach with short grass and a compost toilet, chances are it is used by tour operators on an agreement with the landowner. Avoid also camping below rock slide areas.
7. Camp fires
Only make a fire ring if there is not one established already and then only on the rocks or beach away from any foliage. Use only dead wood, extinguish your camp fire afterwards and leave no trace. Check out https://www.yr.no/ to check for forest fire, rockslide warnings and local weather. It is sometimes forbidden to make camp fires during dry periods.
Some areas are clear of ticks and some spots are overrun (ask locals). Have tick removal gear in your medical kit. Mosquitoes are few and far between and rarely a problem. Horse flies love to land on wet skin and bite. Keep an eye on each other after a swim and be grateful for a slap from a friend.
Make ecologically responsible choices for your supplies. Eco friendly wet wipes, detergents, sun creams etc. Take all your own rubbish and anybody else’s you find if practicable. Please make sure that you leave nothing but the your wakes from your boards and bury any forest poops deep. No one wants to see toilet paper and a person should be able to walk over where you have been without noticing anything.
10. Guided or ‘go it alone’
You will almost certainly have an exceptional and wonderful trip paddling in this magnificent environment. Especially if you plan, heed the above advice and always put safety first. If you find going it alone a bit daunting, you can always choose a professionally organised expedition but please make sure that they have permission to operate commercially in the area you want to visit.
Words & photos: Titus Kodzoman (SUP Norway)
If you are considering going it alone or with a group, Titus is happy to offer help and advice – firstname.lastname@example.org. Titus has led SUP expeditions in the Norwegian fjords since 2015.
SUP Norway operates with the support of the Norwegian government, working closely with local environmental agencies, businesses and land owners to provide low footprint sustainable expeditions in the most protected UNESCO fjords of Western Norway.