Kicking off a new series on Wavelength, ‘Through the Keyhole,’ casts a light on the magic of surf in a particular country or destination. Told through the intrepid eyes of a local, the series paints a rich picture that transports you into the unique charm of each place. First up, we find out about the beguiling, brackish magic of Sweden through the eyes of former pro surfer-turned-freesurfer and cold water fiend, Tim Latte. With a dogged determination and relentless passion for adventuring proving to be a non-stop burning ember of stoke and exploration for Tim, we discover the magic of surfing in Sweden.
Words: Tim Latte
Chasing Unicorns: The Adventure
This is where I grew up surfing, in the Baltic. I’m from Stockholm, and if you know Sweden on a map, it’s pretty much like a big lake. The water is brackish, so it’s not even salt. We don’t really get that many waves compared to a lot of other places. Usually, when I meet someone from, say, Florida, they’re like, yeah, I’m from Florida. The waves are shit. And I’m like, mate, you haven’t been to Sweden yet! The passion for it though, is kind of hard to describe…
I grew up here in Stockholm, went to school here, and then moved abroad to pursue my pro-surfing career. As I got older, I was just like, I miss home, miss my family, miss friends. Then I just realised that we can surf a lot here in the Baltic because of how the weather patterns move. You definitely need a car and you are definitely gonna have to love driving, because here the closest surf spot for me is an hour and a half away. Usually in a day, my friends and I drive six hours one way to surf a couple of hours, and then go six hours back home. That’s a normal day surf for us. That’s like a whole day mission. Last week I had a discussion with my mate, and he asked me why are you still here? And I’m just like, well, when I gave up competition, I was also missing out on the adventure. I have a saying at home here.. “
“Surfing is only 50%, and the adventure and socialising with your friends is the other 50%.”
The adventure is you’re driving around, you’re reading all these maps, all the updates. You saved a lot of these forecasts and you’re checking the logs and you’re like, okay, I think it’s gonna be good. And then you get up there, and you’re hiking through the forest and you get down and you see left or right hand peelers, it’s offshore, and that doesn’t really happen that often in the Baltic. You only have wind swell, and it’s only a short period of time there. And then you’re also, during fall and winter, fighting both the daylight and the pretty harsh climate. It’s in the negative, and there are snow storms. It’s not your regular day at the beach. It’s something that’s very special and very unique and rare, and you know that you’re probably the only people out there scoring these pristine conditions.
“It’s pretty much like chasing fucking unicorns if I’m gonna be honest., you’re chasing something that’s very rare but very addictive!”
In the process of going on the adventure, you experience and see a lot of places that you wouldn’t otherwise. Especially if you’re going further North up in Sweden, and into Norway, for example. You have the scenery, you have the raw landscape, and then there’s so much undiscovered coastline as well. You have nooks and crannies, fjords and islands. Especially here in Sweden, there are several islands that I haven’t been to, but I know there must be some waves there. A lot of the spots here in Sweden have been surfed, but people do tend to shut up about it. It’s not just about being the one to surf the spot for the first time, it’s more just like being there on its day. Those are the things that we get stoked on, it just doesn’t really happen often. If you’re there and you manage to get a good one, it feels so much better.
Lay of the Land
Here in Sweden, we don’t really have any beach breaks, it’s mainly rocky point breaks or some slabs. Especially up in the North, there are a lot of slabs, but they don’t work that often. And that’s another thing as well, if you get one of those days that is like 2, 2.5 meters, and the wind changes offshore, you know you probably have around six hours of good, solid swell and then it’s gone. So you’re maximising that. Some places only work twice a year. How are you gonna be able to time and plan your life? You don’t really know, because everything changes and switches up here, so you’ve gotta be on it.
There’s surfing going on all over the country because there are spots everywhere, you just have to be on it. And if you take a look on the map, a small body of water like the Baltic can have weather systems in the Northern part that don’t even come to the South. You’re always hunting, and you’ve got to check the wind. I think most surfers up here could actually be professional meteorologists. It’s all on different swells too. You’ve got the Arctic, which is all wind swell, the northern winds, southern winds, easterly, and then when you go far up North, you have different weather systems called the Arctic hurricanes.
I surfed a lake here in Sweden, which was actually really good. I drove eight hours up to Sweden’s biggest ski resort to a lake that’s only around 16 kilometers long. My friend just called me and said you gotta come up. It’s gonna be the day of the decade, and we’re talking about in a lake. When I got up there, I slept in the car. When the guys woke me up, I looked out, and it was shoulder to head high, left hand peelers, in a lake. You could see the mountains people were on on the other side. I surfed for three hours and drove home, didn’t understand what the fuck was going on. I drove up eight hours into the country, into the mountains, and I surfed a lake. And that was the best day of the decade.
When you’re traveling, especially if you’re going into the islands and up North, you pack your bags with a tent, sleeping mats, sleeping bags and a lot of food. You get dressed for cold weather and you’re in the car with your mates just pumping up tunes. You don’t want to go by yourself, because a lot of these spots are very remote, and if something happens, you’re pretty much alone. Some of the trips were a 40 minute hike into the woods and no one knows you’re there. Up in the North, we usually grab our camping gear and we walk through these pine tree forests which are covered in moss. You’re walking through that with all your gear on your back, wetsuit bag, camping gear, food, water, and surfboards. You usually bring two or more, so it’s heavy, and you’re walking for 40 minutes, and then set up camp. We make a fire, and then we just run out and we surf our brains off until we can’t feel our feet or fingers or hands anymore.I think that’s the whole different story of it. It’s not accessible to everyone, it’s more like a nature experience.
It gets so cold. A lot of the time, you can only stay out for an hour and a half, and then you have to go up and pour some warm water over you or get inside. That’s the thing up here, if you forget a boot or a glove, which has happened to me sometimes, you’re not gonna be able to surf. So you can drive six hours, and there’s not gonna be a surf shop. You have to be on it the day before, check that you have three sets of fins, couple of extras, preferably two wetsuits, double of everything. You’re gonna bring a few boards preferably because you don’t know how the waves are gonna be. The hard part is you gotta have really good gear. The tiniest little hole in your wetsuit will probably destroy your session when it gets that cold. I use a 6.4 Manera. In January and February, I wouldn’t go anything under 6,7 mm, so it’s all proper rubber. Sometimes when we go traveling, we bring the sauna tent. You have to put in a lot of more effort into just being comfortably numb.
Imagine, everyone’s been surfing and discovered stuff around the equator. But, everything in the cold spheres, like up to the Arctic – that’s a lot of coastline. It’s been growing now in the last couple of years, a lot of people have been going out surfing and exploring and stuff like that, which is really cool. I have some friends up in northern Norway, and they surf this wave that you wouldn’t expect. It’s a massive ski area, and then inside, you have islands on both sides and you have this little inlet. You’re sitting there and you see this A frame that just comes peeling, it’s amazing. That’s the cool part about it, because you can’t really understand how the fuck the wave gets in there, and how we are surfing in the Arctic right now. You just don’t know what to expect either, I don’t know how many times I’ve been skunked but you go in anyway because here, surfing is not on tap.
It’s not a big crew. I’m not gonna share the spots because I’m not a big fan of this and I do see the point about being very careful of exposing stuff. If you’re a part of the crew that we are, you can always come, these are the set of rules. We have our little chat groups and we just keep it together. I like to surround myself with like-minded individuals that live the same lifestyle. I know a lot of the surfers here in the Arctic, and I’m good friends with a lot of people, but the people I wanna travel with are people that I feel comfortable with. We’re a small, tiny group of humans that just roam around. A lot of the spots have been found by other guys that have been pioneering surf since the mid-nineties, early 2000’s when I was a kid, and they’ve been just as hungry as I am.
In Sweden, surfing has grown, it’s insane to the point we have problems now finding a parking space and this mostly happened during the pandemic. I guess it’s my fault as well as the surf cams, there’s a scene, it’s a lifestyle, people love it. For the dedicated few, it’s more the lifestyle of being outdoors, surrounded with like-minded, positive people. And the good thing about up here is that localism doesn’t exist, and I don’t think it ever will exist because Swedish people and our values are pretty calm and collected.