“It’s the sand here in Denmark. It changes all the time. Every storm, every swell, everything changes. We spend flat days looking at the sandbars, all throughout the season, so when the waves arrive, we know where to go.”
This from Mor Meluka, who has spent the past 15 years surfing and studying Danish beaches from his home in Klitmoller, dubbed Cold Hawaii by surfers trying to protect the area from development by giving it a bit of gravitas.
Spot Guide: Denmark
When swells rip down the backbone of the UK, or up the English Channel, those cold-water-loving locals look to Mor for guidance. “He’s dedicated to studying everything here,” said Finn Springborn, 28, a German-born surfer who now lives near Klitmoller. “If he says it’s on, it’s on.”
Last week, a storm was brewing over Scotland, eventually making its way southwards into the frigid North Sea before arriving on the west coast of Denmark. There was potential in this one, so much so that German pro Marlon Lipke, who’d just arrived home after that Italy swell, messaged Mor to check on the conditions before committing to the 1,500km drive from Austria to Denmark.
Lipke had met Mor in 2005 while both were competing on the junior circuit in Portugal. They hadn’t seen each other since then. “There were plans to meet up recently,” said Lipke. “But the pandemic saw to that.”
The tricky thing about Denmark is the wind. Even a day out, the forecast can look promising, then suddenly the wind switches and it’s onshore and howling.
“You can try to pick the eyes out of a forecast and get it perfect,” said Marlon, “but where’s the fun in that? The reality was the conditions would likely be onshore and windy. I knew that, but the other part of me was thinking, ‘What if?’”
“It’s also a special place to me for so many reasons,” Lipke said. “My grandmother lived there and I thought maybe this was the time to reconnect with friends. Even if I got skunked, there’s something about the community up there. They’re so welcoming with those old-school values of being kind and hospitable, inviting you places and showing you around. So I went.”
First day of the swell the wind was up. “You had to paddle around a lot,” said Lipke. “The sea was so intense up there with the low period and massive walls of water. In between everything, you think the ocean is going to eat you up and drag you into nothingness.”
The following day, the wind continued to blow through, but the sea eventually glassed off by the evening. And then there was silence overnight. The crew woke up to clean, small A-frames at a spot up north.
“That day was insane,” said 22-year-old former Danish surf champ, David Johansen, who joined Marlon, Mor and Finn for the mission. “Glassy, perfect. On days when you spend hours driving up and along the coast, those are the best moments, when you don’t expect it and there it is.”
“Managed to find a barrel,” said Lipke. “Then made it back out, got another. That was incredibly emotional for me. I felt the energy there and all those old connections to the sea and the people. Felt like someone was willing me to get that wave.”
Despite the fickle nature of North Sea surfing, this season’s been a banner one for Denmark. For eight weeks there have been surfable waves. And no, this isn’t normal. “Some days small, some days windy, but you could get out there,” said Finn.
“It’s been great,” said Mor, who noted that the season’s seen mostly north swells, whereas in past years south swells have been more prominent. “We’re wondering why.”
And with swell brings people and a burgeoning surf scene that’s being fostered by Mor and his partner Vahine Itchner, who has been documenting surf out in Denmark for the past 14 years. Together, they run the Cold Hawaii Surf Camp and opened the area’s first surf shop, with a coffee hangout to boot. “There’s a sense of community here,” said Vahine. “And the surf scene is growing here all the time, even if the surf can be inconsistent.”
“But that’s why I love every moment of it out here,” said Mor. “People always say, ‘You surf five minutes a year and spend days searching.’ It’s not that extreme, but surfing to me is chasing the sand, the forecast. In my mind, when I’m doing that, I’m already surfing. If it doesn’t work, whatever, the potential and the disappointment is all part of it.”
This session summed up the Denmark scene as a whole. “Sometimes you think the forecast looks great and then suddenly it all changes, that’s Denmark,” said Finn. “Don’t think too much about it. You might get skunked but so what?”
“When I left, there was more swell on the way,” said Lipke. “It’s one of those places where you can connect and feel a part of the elements.”