This Isolated, Idyllic Village in the Faroe Islands Is Also a Surprising Surf Destination
"Do you think the water is freezing?" I shouted over the waves crashing on the black sand. My partner and I shielded our eyes from the rare rays of sun splashing Tjørnuvík Beach to get a better look at the surfer riding in on a three-foot wave. He wobbled, trying to catch his balance before jettisoning off his board into the sapphire blue water — a common sight in the tiny village of Tjørnuvík.
This northernmost village on the island of Streymoy is one of the Faroe Islands' oldest and most idyllic. It's famous for its sandy stretch of beach with views of the giant and the witch, two jagged rocks jutting out of the ocean that inspired Faroese folklore about two mythical creatures trying to drag the Faroe Islands to Iceland with them.
It's also a surfer's paradise. Here, surfers from around the globe come to ride the swells in one of the world's most remote destinations.
Those used to cold-weather surfing can compare it to chasing waves in Iceland or Norway, but multiple things make this tiny village an entirely unique and exciting surf destination. "First of all, the waves are world-class. It's cold-water surfing, which is fairly new to the surfing world, and we have black-sand beaches," says Katrin W. Bærentsen, lifeguard, surf instructor, and tour guide at Faroe Islands Surf Guide. "The landscape is extraordinary, and when the powerful Atlantic swell collides with the ocean grounds around the 18 islands, amazing waves are created. They can be rough and massive, perfect, glassy, and everything in between, but they are quick and steep. The currents are insanely strong and change quickly. The best and most special thing is that there are no crowds."
Home to less than 50 residents, none of the older generation that lives in the village surf. "It's amazing to watch surfing in Tjørnuvík, and the residents come down to watch a lot," says Bærentsen. "Maybe the future generation will take on the legacy."
Founded in 2019, the Faroe Islands Surf Guide has a Surf Shack steps from the black-sand beach. "It's our base for arranging tours with surfing, SUP boarding, cliff jumping, cave exploring, snorkeling, and team-building activities," says Bærentsen.
Raised in the capital city of Tórshavn, one of the world's smallest, Bærentsen learned to surf in California nearly 15 years ago. Today, her family and friends are among the only Faroese citizens out of approximately 50,000 that surf. She says, "It's a very small and close but growing community, and we are the pioneers of Faroese surfing history."
Contrary to the initial shock of seeing surfers in the waters offshore, the water isn't freezing, not even close. Due to the Faroe Islands' location on the Gulf Stream, it has mild winters, with the water temperature hovering around 46 degrees year-round. Bærentsen insists that you can surf all year, but it will feel colder with the winter winds whipping. She says, "If you are an experienced surfer, the swell is more frequent and big from September to March. It's best for beginners from April to August."
Bærentsen and her business partner, Andras Vágsheyg, lead two- to three-hour guided surf lessons and tours for all levels. That includes boards, insulated hooded wetsuits with boots and gloves, as well as drinks and snacks after the surf session. Travelers can also warm up in the Surf Shack's newest addition, a hot tub overlooking the beach and the famous giant and the witch sea stacks. If the swell isn't up to par, the team can also arrange a paddleboarding, snorkeling, or cliff-jumping tour instead.
Surfing tours with the Faroe Islands Surf Guide start at $221 per person.