A Sunday in 1998. The grey of the sea and the sky blurs on the horizon. An icy wind blows from the coast towards the mountains. A Mercedes-Benz 230 E threads its way along a road through the snow-covered Icelandic landscape. In the front seat: a man puts a Beatles cassette in and cranks up the volume. His six-year-old daughter sits in the back, licking an ice cream. Just a few years later, this girl would be one of Iceland’s most famous athletes.
Ólafía Kristinsdóttir smiles as she recalls this early memory of Sunday outings with her father. Now 30 years old, we meet her at her house in a small town south of Reykjavík. The morning sun struggles its way through the bright cloud cover, unmasking the muted green of the surrounding hills. We begin our journey together with the EQA 300 4MATIC towards Keilir Golf Course. Scarcely any place has shaped our protagonist more. To begin with, golf was not a passion for her as a child, but more a pastime. Her two older brothers left her no choice: “When they were looking after me, we had to do what they wanted. So we went to play golf.”
She won her first medal at the age of ten – a formative experience for Kristinsdóttir: “I thought it was so cool to have a medal. So I kept training. That was my incentive.”
Unlike her parents back then, though, Kristinsdóttir does not drive a combustion engine car, but an EQA. And that is by no means unusual in Iceland: it is the country with the second-highest number of new registrations of electric vehicles worldwide, behind only Norway. Yet barely a decade ago, there were not even 100 electric vehicles in the country. What explains this rapid change?
The answer lies in the ever-changing nature. Anyone spending any time on the road in Iceland feels these forces constantly, whether they are driving past breathtaking waterfalls, cracking glaciers, hissing geysers or smoking volcanoes. Everything in Iceland is in constant motion.
The country aims to become carbon-neutral by 2040. A realistic goal, considering where they are now: Iceland already sources almost 100 per cent of its electricity needs from renewable energies. Because Iceland has an abundance of them. First and foremost are hydropower and geothermal energy, the use of heat from the earth.
We use the MBUX infotainment system to look for a place to charge. And sure enough, several fast-charging stations in the vicinity pop up on the display. We stop in Vík í Mýrdal, a small village on the southern tip of the island. Fast-charging stations line the ring road, never more than 100 kilometres apart. But with a range of up to 417 kilometres, it wouldn’t be a problem if a charging station was already fully occupied.
As green electricity flows through the line into the EQA, Ólafía Kristinsdóttir shows us a few golf balls, one of them with a striking inscription. “This is my first hole-in-one ball,” Kristinsdóttir tells us with a shine in her eyes. A hole in one is golf’s jackpot: a single swing, and the ball lands directly in the hole. “The audience goes nuts. And you stand there, in your own world, still totally focused. The ball disappears and the realisation hits you: that’s a hole in one. I had been waiting for this moment for a long time.” Another highlight of her career was competing at the 2018 European Championships, when she competed in the mixed team for Iceland and won the gold medal. She is also the first Icelandic golfer to join the famous Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour.
You quickly notice how much Ólafía Kristinsdóttir’s heart is still in golf. When she tells her stories, her eyes light up and she speaks faster. Then, in 2022, she took a momentous decision: the Icelander announced her retirement from professional golf in an emotional video on her YouTube channel. She visibly struggles to compose herself. It takes a few attempts. It was not an easy decision, as she tells us. “It took courage to publish such a video, to open up about my vulnerabilities. But I thought it was the right way to go. The majority of people also understand that the professional lifestyle is not always easy. You sacrifice a lot, and I have a family now. It was time for me to start a new chapter.”
Her advice for daring to make such a career change? Make sure it’s an idea that will keep you busy for more than a week. And then trust your own gut feeling. “Of course, it’s always difficult to start from scratch. I first have to start building my reputation in this industry. I had one already built up in golf, but this is something completely new.”
There is a book under the golf ball on the passenger seat: Kristinsdóttir’s diary, in which she records her thoughts and business ideas. In early 2023, after only two months of development, she launched her online luxury handbag rental service. She already showed an affinity for fashion at the age of seven. Her career aspiration at the time? Fashion designer.
Now, the time is ripe for her to make her entrance into the industry with her own company, Kristice: Kristinsdóttir from Iceland. It is her creative space to try things out and learn: she spoke to mentors, read about business start-ups and used YouTube videos to help her design her website. She still remembers her burning enthusiasm.
“I got up at six o’clock and started working. I was so excited.” She is pursuing another topic close to her heart besides fashion with this business idea: sustainability. Lending bags out is an example of the sharing economy: individuals no longer buy things only rarely to use them, but borrow them and return them after use. This saves resources and protects the environment.
Half an hour later, the EQA is charged and the journey continues back towards Reykjavík. Off the ring road in Iceland, paved streets are harder to come by. The EQA’s 4MATIC all-wheel drive takes the many gravel roads in its stride, and is also sure-footed in snow and ice. The weather changes with every kilometre that passes, and suddenly the vehicle is cloaked in thick fog. No need to worry: an Icelandic proverb says that if you are not happy with the weather, you only have to wait five minutes. Nature, the weather – constant change. You learn to take things as they come in Iceland. Our protagonist also confirms this: “We are very spontaneous, since the weather can change from one moment to the next. That’s why many Icelanders live by the motto: everything will be fine.”
Just like Iceland’s nature, the EQA seems to be in constant motion: the MBUX partly recognises gestures automatically and highlights certain areas of the display, which makes user operation much easier. The THERMOTRONIC automatic climate control system maintains a constant temperature depending on the weather. However, Ólafía Kristinsdóttir is particularly fond of one detail: the ambient lighting, which creates a cosy light atmosphere inside, especially in contrast to the grey fog. “I posted a story about it on Instagram once. People thought that the lighting was so cool and mentioned it to me for quite a while afterwards.”
There are more and more houses again as the streets become more urban: we reach the foothills of Reykjavík. Perfect timing for the mother to pick up her one-and-a-halfyear-old son from nursery. Of course, she has already introduced him to the golf course, and by now he even shouts “Golf, golf!” With a smile, she says: “Maybe I should get him into training sooner than I thought.”
It’s not only for her son’s benefit that the former professional athlete is returning to the golf course: together with a former sponsor, she wants to offer golf classes for girls in order to inject the next generation of female athletes with her passion. She is also involved in her golf club in Reykjavík, and in training groups with other players. Golf is therefore still an important feature in the Icelander’s life, even if not to the same extent as before.
“Now begins the next adventure,” says Ólafía Kristinsdóttir at the end of her retirement video. It sums up her approach to tackling new things. To be open to the adventures that life offers you. Adventures that surprise. Adventures that keep you moving. Does her father still drive the 230 E? No, replies Kristinsdóttir. Her father has already switched to e-mobility.