Under An Arctic Sky

9 Jan

I live in Houston, Texas, a mere hour away from the Gulf of Mexico, but I rarely see surfboards. What I do see is just about every other type of on-the-water craft. You see, surfing just isn’t really in the DNA on the upper Texas coast. As a result, I don’t normally gravitate toward much of anything surf-related.

Which meant the documentary Under an Arctic Sky, directed by Chris Burkard, is such an odd choice film for me. It’s on Netflix and if it had appeared on any of those feeds, I likely would have just passed it by. But my wife enjoys surfing movies and she had already seen it. She loved it and talked about it enthusiastically enough that come New Year’s Day evening, I suggested we watch it.

Boy am I glad we did.
The plot of this documentary is right there in the title: a group of professional surfers travel up to Iceland—in winter!—to catch some pristine waves in a remote area of Iceland where even the natives rarely go. I had to chuckle when a couple of the Americans were from Florida and California, both locales associated with surfing but not cold weather.

When it comes to unique stories like this one, often there is some sort of external issue that we viewers know about but the participants in the show do not. Sting and his band’s documentary back in 2001 is a good example. We knew 9/11 was approaching and it was fascinating to watch their reactions. Similarly, with these surfers, the worst snow storm in twenty-five years hit while they were filming. What started out as a search for a wave became a survival/adventure story.

Even if surfing isn’t your thing, two aspects of this documentary are worth noting. One, it’s only forty minutes. You clearly can carve less than an hour of some evening to watch this unique show. But the second reason is more important: the cinematography. It is absolutely gorgeous. The stark beauty of snowcapped landscapes and I-don’t-even-want-to-know-how-cold-that-water-is ocean waves are reason enough to watch this film. Plus, you are treated to the utter incongruity of men surfing with snow in the background.

And the northern lights. C’mon. It’s not a spoiler. It’s right in the title.

Recommended.

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