Surf's up in the Arctic Circle

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Lofoten Islands (Norway) (AFP)

The sea rises under the low, late summer sun, the wave climbs and curls and crashes, a figure emerges in a wetsuit, on a long board, and punches the air.

His name is Anker Olsen Frantzen, just 18 years old and a native of the Bay of Unstad where the Lofoten Masters surfing competition is taking place.

Anker is one of 29 surfers (eight female, 21 male) taking part in the 2019 edition of the Masters, the only competition to be held within the Arctic Circle at 68.9 degrees latitude.

Lost in a network of fjords, the bay is stunningly beautiful, a haven for seabirds, a hideaway for humans.

Its remoteness adds to its appeal. The Moskstraumen - or maelstrom - which forms in the archipelago has inspired writers since the Old Norse poems of ancient times. Edgar Allan Poe and Jules Verne both used it to dramatic effect in their stories "A Descent into the Maelstrom" and "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea".

Fortunately for today's surfers there is no sign of a whirlpool in Unstad.

Fair weather surfers who seek out the sun and big waves of Oahu or Tahiti or Jeffrey's Bay might blink at the conditions, although given the location inside the Arctic Circle they are relatively kind.

The dying embers of an Indian summer push the temperatures up to 17 degrees during the day with the ocean at 10 degrees. The high pressure means the waves are unusually small.

Anker's grandfather Thor Frantzen is the godfather of surf in these parts.

Back in 1963, using the cover of The Beach Boys' album "Surfin' Safari", released the previous year, as his guide, Thor built the first surfboard in Lofoten from a combination of fibreglass and newspaper.

That summer of '63, he then set about learning to use it. And he has been surfing ever since.

But he has had to hand over the crown -- last Saturday the Norwegian Ine Haugen took the women's title while Swedish professional Tim Latte was the best of the men.

Oh, and grandson Anker won the longboard.