Chasing Waves and the Northern Lights in Iceland

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After a 20-mile drive down a dirt road, Texas-based adventure athlete Aicacia Young arrived at Húnaflói Bay, a 30-mile-wide inlet on Iceland’s northern coast, and found that the water was dance-floor flat. Iceland has a strong surf community, owing to its often large, if frigid, swells.

Young had hoped to hit the waves, but the smooth water wasn’t exactly a huge surprise. “Surfing in Iceland is super rewarding but fickle,” says Lucas Gilman, a California photographer who’d come along on the trip that October day. “The only thing guaranteed in Iceland is that the weather will change on a dime,” Young adds. “It’s important to have a plan B.”

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Fortunately for the two, the northern lights soon provided one. The green bands are the result of collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun and oxygen molecules in the atmosphere. Gilman created the image seen here by combining a daytime photo of Young and a night shot of the sky, taken hours apart. It was Young’s first trip to Iceland, but Gilman had made 13 visits and seen the northern lights nearly 50 times. Still, he says, “it always makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. It’s magical.”