An Interview with Lena Stoffel I Circle of the Sun

Circle of the Sun was selected for the 7th Annual NY Women’s Surf Film Festival 2019. Produced by Lena Stoffel and Inigo Grasset, the movie “Circle of the Sun“ takes you on an almost surreal journey to Norway. It describes one Circle of the sun. One day of magic. Steep mountains and the ocean, the sun and the aurora borealis. The Arctic. 

A place where you truly get lost in nature. Skiing and Surfing in one day. Lena Stoffel and her crew experienced this dreamy place in all its glory. Starting the day with a perfect surf in the cold arctic sea and ending it at last lights on top of a mountain…

women's surf film festival circle of the sun lava girl surf 2019
women's surf film festival circle of the sun lava girl surf 2019

Where did you grow up and where do you call home now?

I grow up in the south of Germany and now i am based in Innsbruck in Austria. Its not far from where i grew up and the mountains are close everywhere.

Where has been your favorite places to surf and ski?

My favorite place is skiing at home. When it has snow at home its really good and has soo many options to ski off piste in powder. My most favorite places to travel to and ski are Japan and Norway for sure. The ocean is not far and I can surf as well. It’s cold but uncrowded.

And off course i like to surf in warm places too. Maldives are amazing. I am off to Mexico in two days so I will see how i like it there. Never been before.

How did you get started with surfing and skiing?

I skied all my life. My parents are state approved ski teachers and took us into the mountains on skis from a very early age on. I grew up with alpine racing and changed to freestyle and free ride skiing when i studied in Innsbruck. This became my profession until now.

I am also a state approved ski teacher and also do teach people to become a ski teacher now. Surfing I started when I was 20. So now it’s about 15 years ago. I love it and it became my second passion and its a really good balance in between the winter seasons.

What inspired you to make CIRCLE OF THE SUN?

I love nature and I love Norway for that. The mountains and the ocean are so close together. Its amazing terrain for skiing and skit touring and also for surfing. We went there in a really small crew. Only me, Inigo the filmmaker, and a good friend of mine. In a camper van full of boards and skis. We got insanely lucky with what nature provided us. Weather was amazing. Snow was good. Waves were awesome. Everything came together and I just wanted to share this with the world. It’s been almost unreal and really emotional for all of us.

women's surf film festival clif bar lava girl surf 2019 circle of the sun

How did you come to meet the Inigo for in the film?

I met Inigo in the Mentawai Islands on a surfing holiday. He was, and still is shooting in the surf resorts there. Also he spent two seasons in Whistler already and is gaining experience in shooting in the mountains and the snow as well. He is a really humble and nice guy and knows what he is doing.

Norway provides such a stunning backdrop, can you tell us a little about the surf break and mountain featured in the film?

Yes actually Norway is beautiful everywhere and the mountains are beautiful everywhere. The Surf spot we surfed was Unstad. It’s a beautiful big bay and has a right and a left and also a beach break in the middle. The water is really cold and its sometimes a bit overwhelming with all the gear you have to use. But we got lucky with beautiful small conditions with sun and no wind, so this made the decision pretty clear and easy to go surfing.

There are more spots but i will keep them secret as well as the mountains we climbed. Its an adventure and if you know what you’re doing then you can just go and explore. And if you wanna go on an adventure there and you are not sure, there are many local guides you can ask and they will be happily taking you on adventures.

women's surf film festival clif bar lava girl surf 2019 circle of the sun
women's surf film festival clif bar lava girl surf 2019 circle of the sun

What gear did you use to capture those stunning shots?

This is more a question for Inigo as he was shooting most of it. He shot the movie on a Canon. And we had a drone with us. As well we used a Lumix GH5 and Feiyu tec gimbals to do the follow cams on the mountain.

What were some of the challenges in making this film?

The challenges were to make the organization, travel and production happen with a really small budget. Luckily we had support of my partner which is a RV Company. The Sunlight Campervans are amazing and they made the trip perfect, flexible and comfortable in the cold harsh weather up there.

Another Challenge was for sure the physical side of it, as we surfed and skied on the same day on a couple of days in a row. Surfing in freezing waters in the morning and hiking a summit of a mountain for the sunset. Always carrying a lot of gear etc. . But mostly up there while the trip, we’ve just been blown away by nature. And this gave us a lot of energy.

Can you tell us about the surf community in Norway and how has women’s surfing has evolved in Norway in the past few years?

There is a small surf community there and also there are Surf camps and and even a Surfs hop. I think it’s the most north Surf shop in the world. It’s beautiful and they are very welcoming if you respect the beauty and the magic of this place. Also you see quite a few women out there surfing. When we were there, there was always a girl sleeping in the car next to us to be at the spot in the morning when the forecast was good. I am not into the women’s surfing of Norway so i can’t say much about it. But i saw many and also many who took lessons even though it’s pretty cold. Its rough but also it rewards you with empty waves and stunning views and a feeling which is amazing. Very alive.

women's surf film festival clif bar lava girl surf 2019 circle of the sun

What can’t you live without when you travel?

My Headphones ( noise cancelling ) and my pillow. Good sleep is important. Excellent coffee is always good too.

What advice can you provide a fellow female filmmaker who wants to start making surf/skiing films?

It’s not easy to organize everything and also its not easy to produce it. For me its always heart projects and its always hard but because it comes from the heart it means a lot, and therefore I somehow make it happen.The time I spend on those trips are the best times. So I think the best advice is to do it with heart and do projects you completely stand behind and also with people you trust.

What is next for Lena?

I am going to Mexico on a surf holiday. I am very excited for that. After that i can hopefully join in New York on my way home.

Join us for the 7th Annual NY Women’s Surf Film Festival in Rockaway Beach, August 9-11 at the Rockaway Beach Surf Club. We then head to Montauk, August 16-18 at The Montauk Beach House.