Every Here Has A There or, The Great Icelandic Adventure
And so, after all that, Dion Agius and Nate Tyler finished packing their bags for Reykjavik, Iceland. They were, of course, hungover and their Chateau Marmont room was a total disaster with the flotsam and jetsam of a rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle strewn about. One of Dion’s knit caps was hanging from a brass quail perched high on the wall. Before he became super drunk, and before a certain Danish actress pulled him fully clothed into the bathtub, he had pondered the quail’s placement. “Quail don’t usually fly,” he thought.
A cab was waiting outside, impatiently, and Joe G was waiting for them at LAX, texting Grady Archbold, photographer/skeptic/artistic and compositional consultant, to bring fur-lined gloves. Grady had just gotten off the phone with DJ Struntz, photographer/logistical expert/German, who was on his way to New York’s JFK for his own flight to Reykjavik. It takes only five hours and forty-five minutes from New York. Not even enough time to read the introduction to War and Peace, which DJ had forgotten at his North Carolina home, anyhow.
The crew was tighter than most Globe projects because this was unlike any Globe project yet. It was bigger, in scope and in purpose. This time they were not traveling, getting barreled, throwing tweaked stalefishes, filming, cavorting with models for a simple surf film. This time it was a commissioned art piece and Joe G was looking at the whole world differently. It was time for surf to crack its self-created glass bubble. It was time for surf to be featured alongside Rudolf Stingel’s graffiti-covered Celotex insulation panels at the Gagosian in Paris. Surf is, after all, the highest modern art.
He had decided on Iceland because surf is also, after all, the highest adventure and because one bright California morning, as he flipped through the pages of an older Wallpaper magazine, he stumbled on an amazing photograph of a traditional Viking turf house in Iceland. In the background a juicy pointbreak barrel was just beginning to feather and in the foreground a deliciously tall, blonde woman was barbecuing whale meat. The slightest dab of blood could be seen in the corner of her almost perfect mouth. “Iceland,” he thought. “Does art intersect with adventure in Iceland?”
Joe G called Dion immediately and told him to order a 5-millimeter wetsuit, boots, hoods and gloves. He called Nate next, telling him the same and Nate responded, “Cold? Let’s bring Brendon Gibbens, too. He surfs in South Africa and is a classically trained pianist.” He then called Grady, DJ and Dustin Lynn, cinematographer/international musician/fashion industry philanthropist, and emailed his assistant to book IcelandAir tickets for Dion and the Californians, even if that meant they would have to connect in Minneapolis, Minnesota. IcelandAir is, after all, Europe’s most punctual airline.
Nothing But Time
Their flight touched down at the advertised time of 6:40 am, which was much too early. Dion had a bit of trouble walking because he had chased the previous night’s Jameson sodas with airplane Jameson sodas and then straight Reyka vodka. The air, even inside the airport, was cold and he rubbed his newly shaved head before pulling his second-favorite knit cap down over his ears. “At least I have a beard,” he muttered. Nate did not need a knit cap. He had hair as thick and luxurious as Rob Machado himself. Joe shivered inside his black-on-black-on-black attire. He had added a black leather jacket at the last moment. Dustin frowned at the thought of the cold and what it would do to his film stock. Grady smiled and wiggled his fingers inside those fur-lined gloves.
The air outside was colder still, biting even, and they stood on the curb with boardbags, hard-sided camera cases and duffel bags, waiting for DJ. He had come early in order to secure a car and meet Brendon, who had also come early. The cold dug into their very souls but the light was magnificent. A sort of dreamy, perpetual evening glow where all things feel clean, even dirty things like dirty sex. Towering glacial peaks surrounded them and it was magical.
DJ, with Brendon riding shotgun, did not leave them waiting long and roared up in a new, black Land Rover Defender playing Rihanna’s latest hit, “Diamonds.” Shine bright like a diamond. Shine bright like a diamond. They all hustled their gear inside and then sped the 50 odd kilometers toward town. DJ said, “It is good here, they have great salted fish, but we are going straight for the surf. I found a wave, I think, and we will waste no time.” He looked at Dion as he spoke. “F–k. At least I have a beard,” Dion muttered.
They drove right through town, which featured cathedrals, parks and cute white homes with pitched roofs in blue, green and red. They drove through black lava landscape until DJ pulled the Land Rover over on a dead grassy bluff and there, booming before them all, was the North Atlantic and it was furious. The waves sounded like thunder, like they were mocking mankind. They would sink Dion, Nate and Brendon just like they sank Leonardo DiCaprio when he sailed the Titanic. They stood and shivered and tried to pick out any sort of way to access those thundering, mocking waves but it seemed completely futile, even for Brendon, who surfs South Africa. Even for DJ, who is German. They eventually rolled it up and headed back toward Reykjavik, without getting wet but still being very cold, to plan their next move, knowing that an afternoon/evening in town would lead them to where they needed to be. Adventure is as adventure does.
It Was A Very Good Year
Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital, is also the northernmost capital in the world. It was founded in the year 874 by a Norwegian settler named Ingólfr Arnarson. Ingólfr translates to “aristocratic wolf” in English and the whole Globe crew felt like aristocratic wolves as they prowled the city center streets. They did not know exactly what they were looking for but knew that whatever needed to happen would happen. Brendon pointed at a bar that seemed to have dropped from space. It was named the Astro Bar and they pushed through throngs of beautiful women to get inside.
It was packed, hot and alive. The Sugarcubes played on the house speakers, over the din. Delicious demon, delicious demon. And the throngs of beautiful women swayed to the beat. The whole crew felt like delicious demons as they drank vodka-infused beer. The memory of not surfing earlier faded.
And the vodka-infused beer flowed. Dion had not noticed her on his first three trips to the bar but on the fourth he could notice nothing but her. She was tall, striking, with a wide face, Eskimo eyes, blonde hair that cascaded down her back and she was working the bar with the deftness of an expert. He asked her name while she shook his cocktail and she said, “Svava. I am a Viking.” He told her they were looking for surf and a place to stay. She said, “My father owns a farmhouse just outside of town that you are welcome to. As far as surf goes, though, I am no help.” Dion said he didn’t care and retreated back to the table, telling everyone that they were going to abandon their not yet fully formed plans and move to a farmhouse with a Viking. DJ was dubious but everyone else agreed. Yes, a beautiful Viking woman in Iceland was what they needed.
All This And Heaven Too
Days in the farmhouse turned into a week and it was dreamy. The house itself was a 200-year-old traditional Icelandic turf house, the exact sort that Joe G had seen in Wallpaper. It had actual sod growing on its A-frame roof, which acted as insulation. An old horse milled about in the yard, munching grass, sometimes off the roof. The whole crew would rise early and Svava would make strong tea and then they would adventure off in search of surf. They were mostly unlucky, finding only freezing-cold little wedges that broke amongst icebergs and it was cold. The thing about Iceland is it is always cold, or at least it is in the winter. But no matter how pedestrian the surf was, or how cold, the drive to and from was wholly surreal. They would go around like tourists, not being able to help themselves. There were waterfalls pouring into eternity, glaciers, whalebones, crystalline icebergs, steaming patches of thermal hot spring land that smelled like sulfur, rainbows that stole the breath. They would come home, in awe of all they had seen, and Svava would cook them dinner. Once it was a cute little puffin bird. Another time it was barbecued whale and it was as if the whole trip had been manifested by Joe G’s imagination. His imagination without the surf.
Every true adventure, though, has its own heartbeat and eventually surf found the crew by way of a crusty old fisherman who approached while they sat shivering on the sand after another less-than-stellar session. “It’s waves you want? Aye. There are waves but you must cross the ice lake to get them. Be there at dawn.” They looked at each other, went home to Svava, ate reindeer, went to bed and woke before the sun.
The ice lake of which the crusty old fisherman spoke was a literal ice lake. Frozen chunks the size of cars, SUVs and tanks floated free. Joe G looked at Nate who looked at Brendon who looked at Grady who looked at DJ who looked at Dustin who looked at Dion who was thinking about Svava.
And then it appeared. An aquacar. It drove out of the water behind them and parked. It was bigger than a bus but shaped like a boat with giant tires the size of a man. The driver shouted at them to get in, turned around and drove into the ice lake. It all seemed normal because last night, before bed, they had seen the northern lights turn the sky purple and green. The aquacar drove/sailed until it came to a strip of beach and there they saw barrels and ramps just begging to be abused. Dion, Nate and Brendon ran toward them looking like the Knights Templar in 5-millimeter wetsuits, boots, hoods and gloves and they surfed even beyond their ability, especially Dion. He dropped hammers.
Joe G, filming on the beach, smiled to himself. Yes, the Gagosian in Paris would be pleased. Surf would be featured alongside Anselm Kiefer’s wheat field installation called “a monumental archive of human memory,” but more importantly, and more simply, this was an adventure. He pulled his iPhone out of his black leather pocket and saw a text from Alex Smith, who was surfing deep in the Caribbean. “Pumping waves!” it read. “The Caribbean,” he thought. “Art definitely intersects with adventure and warmth and coconut cocktails and yachts in the Caribbean.” And he waved Dion in.—Chas Smith