Surfing Sweden

I never thought I would find myself getting excited by onshore winds, but … Sweden.

Sweden is a long country with short seas. Stretching about 1600 km from top to bottom, it’s the longest nation in Europe. Most of this length is made up of Baltic coastline.

And therein lies the problem. It’s Baltic coastline, not Pacific or Atlantic coastline.

Surfing Sweden
Like Bodhi in Pointbreak, the author patiently waits for his set.

The Baltic Sea

Finland, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Denmark, Germany and Sweden all combine to form the terrestrial limits of the Baltic Sea’s area – a total of 415,266 square kilometres – which also happens to be the limits of its swell potential.

This is a small body of water when you compare it to the Pacific Ocean appearing before you every time the sun rises on the east coast of Australia; or when it sets on the Indian Ocean in the West.

Surfing Sweden
Sweden’s only ever sponsored professional surfer, Tim Latte. He cut his teeth on waves just like this.

Now it should be said for the record, that it isn’t always onshore up in these icy parts. You do get the odd miraculous moment where planets align and winds and swell combine for clean waves. But it’s not very often.

The majority of the time you are looking for a corner where large enough wind swells can bend around headlands, giving you a kind of point break runner with an ice-fuelled cross-shore wind.

Surfing Sweden
Small interval windswell refracting around a point into a little bay for some cross-chop runners. It’s still beter than staying dry.

I live in the south of Sweden, and fortunately enough for me and the many ‘locals’ in these parts (I use this term loosely, as driving over an hour for a surf doesn’t really make you a local). Semantics aside, there are quite a few of these little setups which afford you the protection from the wind, while the swell bends around a lonely point.

Surfing Sweden
There’s lots of driving to find waves in Sweden, so the best way to combat that is #vanlife. Driving, setting up, sleeping out when the waves are on. And of course lots of hot coffee.

A word of caution though: the locals know to the minute when a wave is going to turn on so don’t be surprised to find a ‘secret spot’ that suddenly has 20 cars arrive after you suit up and dive into the freezing Baltic brine.

Also, once in the water it can get a bit busy to say the least. Swedes are very nice people, but like surfers all around the world, the hassling and drop-ins are all part of the deal too.

That is just one important thing I have learnt from my time surfing in the Nordics.

Surfing Sweden
There’s not a lot of waves to go around, and the ones that do roll through are hotly contested.

A few other things I’ve learnt are: goddamn, it’s picturesque!

Surfing Sweden
Surfing in Sweden is a different mindset. It’s about getting out there, getting wet, taking in the totally unique scenery.

In the south of Sweden agriculture is king, and the limits of many farms finish at the place where you jump in. When Autumn arrives and the leaves begin to turn brown and fall you sit in the icy water and have a uniquely Scandinavian view in between sets.

Erosion is also a huge problem, with many of these farms slowly being claimed by the Baltic Sea. The intensity of the agricultural in these parts is also contributing to intense eutrophication of the Baltic too, with algae blooms a common sight and a big concern for fisheries and surfers alike.

While the waves aren’t always of the power and quality of what you have in Australia, the stoke is always high. I mean, to be bothered to drive such distances for some cold, sloppy, wind burgers means you are most likely a frother to say the least. Or completely out of your mind. Whichever …

Sweden won’t be the best surf of your life, but what I’ve learned so far here is, it is what you make of it.

So, suit up and see you out there!

Surfing Sweden
The author bounces one off the top to prove his point. There is surf in Sweden and you can do turns.

Words / Joshua Burguete-Kirkman

Photos /@muchascasias & @lisalowenborg (Instagram)