We Talked to the Guy Who Went Surfing Under the Northern Lights

Ever risked frostbite for a great Instagram? Chris Burkard has

January 13, 2017 9:00 am

“It’s a brutal experience. You’re putting everything to the test.”

Not something you’ll often hear an Instagrammer say about his work. But Chris Burkard isn’t most Instagrammers. Rather, he’s an acclaimed surf photographer, speaker, author, explorer and filmmaker who uses the social media platform to give people a glimpse into his vagabond lifestyle, which primarily involves traveling to the most remote corners on planet earth to document them for posterity.

His new film, Under An Arctic Skyfollows six surfers as they head to Iceland to chase the storm of the century with the Aurora Borealis as their guiding light. And this Saturday, he’s taking over our Instagram: @InsideHook.

To get you acquainted, we asked him a few questions about, well, what it’s like to have the greatest job on planet earth.

InsideHook: With Instagram, followers usually don’t get the whole story behind a photo. Can you explain these a little more?

A photo posted by ChrisBurkard (@chrisburkard) on

Chris Burkard:
That was a trip we did to Iceland in the winter about two years ago. It was the middle of February, brutal cold, just these terrible conditions … We were searching for surf in the middle of winter. It was my first experience doing it. Since then, I’ve been back three or four more times in the winter. It’s my favorite time to go.

A photo posted by ChrisBurkard (@chrisburkard) on

That was from a job I did for Mica Heliskiing … At one point we were like, let’s see if we can race the helicopter down. The guys, they went as fast as they could, but there was not even a close chance.

A photo posted by ChrisBurkard (@chrisburkard) on

That was in Switzerland … Turns out that the place we went to has some of the best canyoneering in the world. I went out there and we’re doing this pretty technical canyon, it’s about 10-15 waterfall jumps and rock slides and everything else .. If you want to get a good photo, you’re often the first one to do it so you can shoot the other person doing it, right? … You can’t be a bystander in photography. You have to be immersed in it.

IH: In your new film Under an Arctic Sky, you shot surfers in Iceland. What’s it like filming in Arctic waters?

To be totally honest, it’s a brutal experience. You’re putting everything to the test. You’re putting your body to the test. It’s freezing outside, it’s cold, your technology is suffering, your battery life is draining … That suffering brings you to an awareness of why you love what you love, because if you didn’t love it, you wouldn’t do it.

IH: But you almost got frostbite once.

CB: I’ve gotten the onset of frostbite before, where your fingers, your toes start to get pretty severely cold and you get to stage 1 or stage 2. Then when you heat up your skin too fast you come away with really damaged nerves. That’s what ended up happening to me, after time and time again. It’s made the sensitivity in those places not great. It’s been a bit of a bummer … Every time I’m in cold weather, I lose the feeling in my hands and feet first.

IH: During your shoot, Iceland got hit with the worst storm they’d had in 25 years. How did that change your film?

CB: We got turned around on a boat right after we got out to where we wanted to go. We got totally swatted. It made us turn around with our tail between our legs, but we decided to stick it out, and because we did that we found something even better … We wanted to make this adventure film about going out [in Iceland] on a boat and surfing this remote national park, but it didn’t turn out like that.

To see more, including exclusive shots from the film, check out our Instagram this Saturday, January 14th.

Chris will meet you over @InsideHook.

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