Sognefjord on Norway’s Western coast is the world’s longest and deepest navigable fjord. It was while I was looking for a challenge to kick off the warm weather paddling season last spring, that I decided to explore the fjord using my inflatable sup for the first time.
From source to sea:
In a survey conducted by National Geographic’s Traveler Magazine, the fjords of Norway were selected as the number one unspoiled spot from a list of 115 destinations from around the world. My personal exploration included paddling Sognefjord entire length, from source to sea.
“The Naeroyfjord is, quite possibly, the most dramatic fjord trip on the planet.”
The Naeroyfjord is considered to be the wildest and most beautiful branch of the Sognefjord. At 17km long and only 250 meters wide at the narrowest point, the passage through the Naeroyfjord is, quite possibly, the most dramatic fjord trip on the planet. The paddle takes you under cathedral-like cliffs rising to snow-capped mountains up to 1800 meters (5900 feet) high, all of which are striated with hundreds of waterfalls. It is easy to understand why people quickly find their limitations with superlatives while traveling through here.
With a dry sack packed and my Red Paddle Co. 13’2 Explorer inflatable sup rolled into it’s trusty rucksack and wheelie bag, I considered my second most important piece of gear. The journey dictated I would travel by a small plane and then by bus to reach my launch point; therefore, I knew I had to take my 3-part adjustable paddle, the Starboard Enduro, with me. This particular blade is a surfing paddle which, experience had taught me, can be challenging due to it’s stiff shaft and low aspect ratio blade when covering longer distances and paddling for up to 13 hours per day. On these exploratory journeys, you have to mix up your paddling style quite a bit to avoid cramping or straining specific muscle groups. If this doesn’t happen, then you are probably an incredibly fit paddler and under 50. I am neither.
“Obtaining what you need directly from nature generates a tremendous feeling of satisfaction, a well being and thankfulness. It is the sweetest water you will ever taste.”
My tour of the Sognefjord was to be solo and unsupported. I charted a course that would take me five days to complete it, paddling a reasonable 40km per day. All the gear I would need would be on my inflatable Explorer including the board’s rucksack and pump. Twenty to thirty kilograms is a standard load, but with water readily available in the fjord all around me, that would save me a lot of weight. I would use the waterfalls to refill my drinking supply.
The waterfalls in the fjords are mesmerizing. They provide a constant background of white noise familiar to any surfer and an overwhelming, shaking thunder as you paddle close to a larger one. The immense down draft generated by the larger waterfalls makes water collection a challenging task. It is, however, totally worth it. Obtaining what you need directly from nature generates a tremendous feeling of satisfaction, a well being and thankfulness. It is the sweetest water you will ever taste.
“Suddenly, I was paddling in a luminescent, liquid painting.”
I had to paddle the 42km of Lustrafjord before entering the main tributary of Sognefjord. ‘Lustra’ derives from the Viking word for ‘light’ or ‘bright’ and within thirty minutes I was rewarded with a breathtaking example of why it is so called. The mountains and the sky mirrored each other perfectly on the fjord’s still calm surface and, suddenly, I was paddling in a luminescent, liquid painting.
Paddling Sognefjord can feel a lot like traveling through a set from ‘Lord of the Rings’ and you can be forgiven for expecting elves or a dragon to make an appearance. Huge sea eagles are a common site together with seals and of course, the porpoises. Sightings and even paddling in the company of porpoises can often occur several times in a day. The most common here are an indigenous species of harbor porpoise although larger breeds are encountered and even the occasional whale may even be spotted.
“Standup paddle explorations brings you into amazing intimate experiences of nature.”
The porpoises are quite shy and are usually only seen in small groups; however, during my second day of the journey, I noticed a very large concentration of fins. I stopped paddling, knelt down and drifted into the middle of them. There must have been about 150-200 porpoise surrounding me, engaged in a feeding frenzy. The puffing sound of their breaching exhales blowing several times a second. Silvery torpedoes flashed around in every direction under my board. Truly magical! Standup paddle explorations brings you into amazing intimate experiences of nature. I have carried music with me on every paddling trip and I have yet to use it on the Sognefjord.
The third day was a perfect downwind heaven the and the kilometers flew! The wind helped propel me forward with each effortless stroke and I was oblivious to my taped up, sore and blistered fingers. I even found myself singing! The water underneath my board was incredibly clear as I neared purer ocean water and finally paddled out to meet the sea. Mission complete!
“Perhaps I was not quite ready to come back to normality and the throng of human integration. “
In order to complete my run, I had to paddle a couple of hours back to the exit point, deflate & pack up my board and then I was finally on a fast ferry to Bergen where I met the train across the country back to Oslofjord. Faced with buying a ticket and realizing I had not spoken to a soul for almost three days was a strange experience. Although I speak Norwegian quite well, I found myself pretending I could not. Perhaps I was not quite ready to come back to normality and the throng of human integration.
It was a wonderful, spur of the moment adventure and there was a great feeling of achievement to have stand up paddled the length of the longest navigable fjord In the world.
Not surprisingly the inflatable sup was noticeably slower than my trusty 5 year old Starboard K-15 carbon loaded with the same weight. (My usual choice for fjord paddling.) But I’ll tell you this. It was a hell of a lot easier to get it in the bus.
— Titus Kodzoman, founder of SUP Norway
Titus Kodzoman is the founder of Sup Norway (www.supnorway.com) . Sup Norway is a totally mobile Stand Up Paddling solution providing courses, company events and expeditions in the beauty of the Norwegian fjords, coastline and waterways. Titus is an experienced, serious sup instructor/surfer/freediver/kitesurfer/yachtmaster and an Ex Royal Marine. He is currently training to be an instructor in the ‘Wim Hof method’ of body control in cold environments and swims in Oslofjord throughout the winter.