Pages Menu
Categories Menu

Posted by on Sep 6, 2019 in Equipment, Travel |

Iceboard ❄️- a cool alternative to windsurfing

With the immense heat that has descended upon us recently, I though it would be appropriate to take a mental trip to a different place and time. A trip to the other extreme of the temperature spectrum and to the East from the sizzling (oh the irony) British coast. Past the Channel and the Norther sea, harsh winters do not stop windsurfers from pursuing their hobby. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: the iceboard.

Tobias Bodin on a lake near Stockholm, Sweden, riding his iceboard with a cambered sail. He's wearing a motorbike helmet for safety, go pro camera at the front of the board.
Tobias Bodin, Stockholm – Sweden
|Claes Nilsson Kvick|

Great… Why, how?

Iceboarding, unsurprisingly, has sprung out of a wider trend of Ice-Yachting. Although it was born on the frozen lakes and bays of the Baltic states, the sport owes its popularity to a small sail club on the Hudson river in the USA. In 1790 ice-yachting became a fashionable way to spend free time. Cheap, easy to construct triangular “box” yachts made the sport accessible to the masses.

Early ice-yachts, predecessors of the modern iceboard.
Hyde Park Ice Yacht Club, circa 1900
|White Wings and Black Ice|

Over the years, the advances in sailing tech have made the yachts smaller, lighter and faster. From there, as is often the case, the idea popularised by sailing was adopted by windsurfers.

The tale of snow and ice

When in the late Autumn the temperatures fall below zero, all the reasonable creatures put their wetsuits on a hanger and end the season. However, certain individuals, particularly of the Scandinavian and Slavic origin, look for ways to extend their madness passion into the winter.

Industrial landscape with a windsurfer on a lake in the foreground. Two tall chimneys of a power plant. Strong wind.

Thanks to specific local conditions, the local conditions windsurfing in Rybnik, Poland, goes on all year round. because of the input of the warm coolant water from a nearby power plant, the lake never freezes. Because of that, the lake attracts many brave souls, willing to speed across the -10°C air. However, for those who don’t have the luxury of a lake-sized hot-tub, iceboard provides a faster and scarier alternative to windsurfing. The iceboard replaces the buoyant hull with a frame equipped with thin skates. Because the skates moving across the ice produce virtually no resistance compared to water, the same wind speed moves the surfer much, much faster.

Test rider on Sharp 4 iceboard on a frozen lake.
Sharp 4 Iceboard 2018

On the plus side, the custom-built iceboard can be connected to a standard windsurfing sail with good results. However, as expected, not all sails will perform equally well. Since what you need is stable power, the best option seem to be race-oriented sails with two or three cambers. As Tobias Bodin phrased it in his review for Boardtest:

The advantage of full race sail on ice is that they are pretty good allrounders, great for slalom and speed but you will also be able to use them for freeride and freestyle as well.

Tobias Bodin for

Just how many people do actually iceboard?

Ice board Polish Championships 2015 Poster.

Well, enough to warrant a Polish National Championship, organised annually by the Polish Windsurfing Association. In all fairness though, the sport is a bit of a niche, with low temperatures, super-high speeds ,and potential injuries scaring away those of faint heart. However, there are some individuals who see all of the above as a bonus. Among them is the holder of the Polish iceboard speed record, Adam Mróz (who’s name amazingly translates as Adam Frost). The record breaking attempt took place in 2017 and resulted in the top speed of over 45 knots. That’s over 50 mph!

However, the world speed record established in 1986 is still firmly held by the rider extraordinaire, Joop Nederpelt. Amazingly, the video from the event has managed to survive and is available on Youtube. According to the records, he managed to break the barrier of 60mph with the top speed of 55.5kts. Besides iceboards, the Dutch surfer was also one of the pioneers behind the hydrofoil technology, way before it was cool.

Where do I sign up to iceboard?

The hub for the activity seems to be Stockholm with a choice of small bays surrounding the city. During harsh northern winters, those freeze over with a layer of 20cm thick ice, providing solid even surface for the iceboard to skate on.

Unfortunately, the sport is not particularly popular in the UK. Despite my best efforts I wasn’t able to find individuals or centres who’d partake in the ice madness. However, if you or anyone you know has tried it, please let us know in the comments! For one, I sure would love to have a go.


Share |