I packed the last of my things into my board bag and sat on the edge of the bed. I felt a little anxious thinking about what my life was going to be like when Marie, my wife, and I moved back to Sweden in the morning–on the other hand, I was excited for another new adventure and all that would come with it.
I had been reading as many articles as I could find about surfing in the Baltic, and I felt like I was more prepared to surf this time. I’d sat down with Andrew Mooney of Nirvana Surfboards and designed a Swedish Model for the sloppy, short period wind swells that you find in the Baltic Sea. We ended up with a hybrid between a short board and fish with a touch more volume to compensate for the fresh water. The boys at Adelio sorted me out with some rubber. They were super helpful and we ended up having a suit made that was 5/4/3 with a built in hood and fur lined from my head down to my legs. I was so stoked with my new gear, and couldn’t wait to test it out.
We arrived in Stockholm in the beginning of spring and I was psyched. Although I started working right away my mind was elsewhere. I couldn’t stop thinking about when I would get to try out my new board and wetsuit. I had two spots that I knew of that were relatively close to Stockholm. One was an hour-and-a-half north and the other was an hour south. But the lovely spring weather soon turned into one of the best Swedish summers on record, and I was having no luck with the Baltic wind swells. The days became really long and there was plenty of time to make the drive after work if there was any chance of surf. I checked the forecast for both spots about 10 times a day, each time hoping that it had been updated and was showing some swell. Finally, one day it showed 0.3m-0.5m, at 5 seconds from the north. I was so frothing for a surf that I actually believed that it might be rideable. I drove the hour-and-a-half north only to find tiny, unrideable waves.
It was August before I was finally able to have a surf. The swell was about 3-4 foot out of the north. I’d taken the day off work and I made sure I was there at first light, to maximise the amount of time spent in the water. The wind driven rain was relentless and it stung my eyes as I waited out the back for the sets to roll in. It felt so good to be back in the water and I actually managed to find a few little gems amongst the slop. My wetsuit and board felt great and I surfed this point for three hours without seeing another soul.
I went in for a rest and to drink some water when I met a couple of guys in the forest where I had parked. They said they checked a couple of other spots but this seemed to be the best. Still in my wetsuit, I lay down in the back of my car for about half-an-hour, to regain my strength before I waxed up again – ready for the second session. I surfed for another two hours and during this time about ten Swedes ended up coming out, all super happy and stoked to get a few waves. I kept surfing until my body gave up and my arms were completely dead. I knew I would need some strong coffee for the drive home.
A few more weeks passed by with no waves and the days started to become shorter. The air temperature dropped and the leaves began turning shades of red, orange and yellow. The water was now around eight degrees, and the predominant wind was out of the South West, which meant that the well-known spot south of Stockholm would start to come alive. The autumn delivered some really windy, but fun waves. I was able to surf most weekends, and I even managed to sneak a few days off work to get a few extra sessions in.
It was about this time that some pictures emerged of Freddie Meadows (Swedish pro surfer) getting properly barreled. Up until this point I was relatively happy surfing the cold, windy slop that was on offer–but after seeing these pictures, I began getting completely obsessed with trying to find these waves. Some nights I would spend over three hours on Google Earth, scouring the Baltic coastline, taking notes and cross-referencing them with the pictures that Freddie had posted. It’s like searching for a needle in a haystack though, because the Swedish coastline stretches for more than 3200km and the Stockholm Archipelago itself is made up of close to 30,000 islands. It’s a logistical nightmare searching for waves that are accessible by car, let alone all the islands if you had a boat or ski. I’ve narrowed it down to a few spots and I’m super excited for the adventure of trying to track down these waves, once I get a promising forecast.
It’s winter now and the water is around three degrees and the air temp is below zero. I surfed last Monday and I was completely blown away at the size and power that the Baltic Sea is capable of. It was way too big and messy for my little Swedish Model and it was lucky that I had my step up in the car with me. As I ran through the forest and made my way down to the water’s edge, I could feel my feet already getting cold, and when I looked up all I could see was whitewater lines stacked to the horizon. The waves were breaking further out than I have ever seen here, and although I have surfed much bigger waves in Australia, I was still nervous.
Everything about the Baltic is unfamiliar to me. The taste, the smell, the color and, of course, the temperature. The paddle out wasn’t too bad, although the ice cream headaches seemed to linger for eternity. It was really hard to get into the right position for the sets as they were shifting around a lot, and I ended up wearing quite a few on the head. One set folded on top of me and pushed me so deep I felt my ears pop, and could hear the stones on the bottom rolling around, making noises like small fire crackers. I surfed for three hours by myself in some of the most challenging conditions I have ever experienced. When I came in I was freezing and tired, but so happy that I was able to surf some waves with power and size.
I haven’t even begun to see what Sweden has to offer with different surf spots, and I’m sure there are plenty of fun waves out there if you know where to look. No one here will tell you where they are – that part is up to you. Personally, I think it’s great how secretive the scene is here, and I look forward to the challenge of finding new waves and exploring new coastlines. Because let’s face it, Sweden is no Hawaii or Indo, but you can surf, and the way in which the surf industry has started to boom here is a testament to the sport.
Like all my good mates back in Australia, I live to surf. I eat, sleep and breathe it. We all froth on getting barreled, good swell forecasts, or even a little onshore rip bowl. We can even talk about fantasy surfer for hours; it’s in our blood, it’s who we are. When you add that to exploring new coastlines and trying to learn new weather patterns it becomes a true adventure full of excitement and the unknown. It’s what keeps us all going.