WHITE DREAMS: Summer Snowboarding and Parklife, Iceland

Interview by Sam Baldwin
Photos courtesy of James McPhail and Tash
Published May 2006

Icelandic Reflections

Every summer under warm blue skies, giant kickers, super pipes, and monster rails appear on glaciers worldwide, from Norway to New Zealand. These terrain park camps allow skiers and snowboarders to practice new tricks, test new equipment and shoot film and photos during the long summer months.

The most unique snow camp of all is The Iceland Park Project. Borne of the frustration of crowded kickers and stressed out riders, three shapers dreamed of building a relaxed park in a beautiful land, where you could surf the sea after riding the rails.

In 2002 the Iceland Park Project was launched and thanks to its 24 hour daylight, unusual location and pioneering nature, it grabbed the attention of snow media worldwide, boasting the most press coverage of any summer camp, ever.

We spoke to Rob Wyke, one of the founding IPP trio, about how it came to be.

Who are you and where are you from?
My name is Rob Wyke, I am 28 years old and I grew up in Glasgow, Scotland.

ImageHow did you get into snowboarding?
I used to ski and skate in the 1990s, so it seemed natural to try snowboarding.

Who is the IPP?
IPP is run by three partners; myself, Graham Macvoy and Bjarni Valdimarson, as well as a team of ten loyal staff who have been there from the start, are all good friends and really make IPP what it is.

Why Iceland?
It is one of the few places in the world with surf and snow right next to each other.

What makes the IPP so different from any other summer camp?
The fact that you can surf after riding, the really chilled atmosphere, the 24 hour daylight and the fact the park is open whenever you want to use it.

When did the IPP start, where did the idea come from, and how did you get involved?
In 2000, myself, Graham and Bjarni were all working together as head park shapers at the SPC camp, then at Hintertux, Austria. The park there would see about three hundred people a day, and there were always queues to drop in, and a slightly stressed vibe. We all knew that we could build our own park and run our own camp and when Bjarni came up with Snaefellsness in Iceland as a location with surf and 24 hour daylight, it was too good an idea not to go ahead with.

What jobs have you done in the past?
Everything from teaching snowboarding to working in Burger King, basically whatever needs to be done to get where I want to go.

Do you speak Icelandic?

ImageDo you get a lot of Icelandic locals hitting the park, or is it mainly those coming from overseas?
Every year we get a few more locals coming along which is cool. There are a crew of kids who come down from the north (Team Divine), they rock and I am sure you will hear more about them soon.

Are there any other summer parks in Iceland?

You’re now hooked up with Icelandic Clothing Label - Nikita, how did that partnership come about?
After our third year of running the camp they approached us to get involved. They are really nice guys and see things the same way as we do which makes it really easy to work together.

Describe a perfect IPP day.
Blue bird with an offshore breeze, up to the park by mid morning, back down in the afternoon for a surf before dinner, a good feed and some chilling, then either some beers and partying or more activities.

ImageAre Icelandic woman as beautiful as they say?

There’s more to the IPP than snow - what else is on offer for guests? Surfing, skating the mini-ramp, caving, cliff jumping, hiking, fishing and whale watching.

What are the downsides to working at the IPP?
Lack of sleep.

What do you do during the rest of the summer (and winter for that matter)?
This summer I have been working in a hotel on the north coast of Scotland and surfing. In the winter I will be building the park at Mount Washington on Vancouver Island, Canada, and generally checking out the snow/surf potential of the area.

Talk us through a typical day working at the IPP?
For the staff it is a couple of hours shaping up the hill and then another hour or so doing dishes or cleaning the hostel at night. For the three partners it involves running around like madmen 24/7 for a month.

What does the future hold for IPP? Will we be seeing the park opening for longer, or perhaps the creation of the Greenland Park Project!?
We have thought of spring powder sessions in Greenland but the logistics make it just too expensive. The park will be open for four weeks this year (summer 2006) for the first time, and if there is the demand we might even extend it further in future.

ImageThe story of the IPP is an inspiration to all lovers of snow. What advice would you give to people who are thinking about starting up a snow project/business? Don’t expect to make any money, work hard and do it because you love what you are doing.

How many winter seasons have you done and where?
About fifteen, all over the world.

Where are you based when not running the IPP?
Somewhere by the sea or the snow.

Where in the world have you ridden?
All over Europe, America, Canada and New Zealand.

What’s the snowboarding scene in Iceland like and what standard is the riding? The scene is pretty good apart from a small element who think it’s cool to get drunk and wreck other people’s stuff, but you get that everywhere. Considering the size of the population, the standard of riding is really high and in general the Icelanders are certainly not scared to have a go.

How much time do you get to actually ride the snow?
At IPP, virtually none.

ImageWhere’s your favourite place to ride in the world?
Pacific North West. (USA/Canada).

What kind of problems did you face when trying to get the IPP up and running?
Money, what else?

Are you ‘living the dream’?
I am trying my best.

This summer the IPP will be running from 13th May to 10th June 2006. Prices start at £475 (US$845) for a week and include accommodation, food, transfers and a whole lot more. Check out icelandparkproject.com for more details on their 24 hour snow sessions.