We visit Kari Traa ambassador Steffi Van Der Branden in Selje, Norway, where she grew up. Out on the surf paradise Hoddevik on a little peninsula called Stadt, it is crawling with surfers and yoga-savvy young people on vacation. This has not always been the case.
- It wasn’t until I was 18 that I started surfing, says Steffi. Growing up in Selje, people had great respect for the ocean. We heard the stories from our grandparents about how the men went out to the sea to go fishing, while the women were home alone on the farm with the children. Some came home, others disappeared out there in the storms.
Today, Steffi has complete control over the waves crashing on the perfectly white sandy beach. With her surfboard, she glides over them with great ease. With the sun high in the sky, Hoddevik looks like an exotic holiday paradise. According to Steffi, this is a rare scenario.
- Those of us who grew up here are used to bad weather not known in the city. Rapid changes and nasty weather are the norm most days. But it has never prevented us from being outside in nature. Everything is about clothing. Wool on the inside, and windproof clothing on the outside. We are quite hardy here.
The first time Steffi spent an entire summer in Hoddevik, she was suffering from heartbreak.
- I got a job at a small surf hostel with eight others. We slept on mattresses in the attic and became like a small family. I taught myself to surf and do yoga in a barn outside at the point.
This was before the beautiful bay had really been put on the map by surfers, and was far more untouched than it is today. There was no mobile phone coverage and Steffi felt isolated from the world.
- I think it was the best broken heart cure I could ever get. I could not sit with my phone and wait for messages that would never come. All I had was nature and people who were passionate about it.
It was as if the storms and the bad weather pulled Steffi out of her negative thoughts. Nature here forces me to be present. Knowing that I am a very small part of the bigger picture. And it gives me such peace.
Now that Steffi lives in Oslo and has a hectic job in video production, she always returns to Stadt to find her way back to that same sense of calm.
- Here, I am free. From all my big and small problems and concerns, and from the endless demands placed on me, and that I place on myself. It is so liberating. To venture out into the wild sea to surf, to find the calm in the yoga hall or go hiking in the mountains and feel the wind pulling at you. We are so trapped into constantly performing that we forget that it is ok to just be.