MEET: Arctic Surfer Maria Petersson, Scandinavia's Olympic Hopeful

Jason Lock

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Updated 1156d ago

Being the protagonist in your first surf edit is no easy feat. Hoping conditions, waves and locale align in order to score the perfect shot is a stress that most of the big names in our industry deal with daily.

Right here, we'd like to introduce you to Maria Petersson, a ripper straight out of Sweden and one of Scandinavia's top female surfers. Not only is the below Maria's debut edit but it's the first cut of a female surfer from Sweden – and one that Maria hopes will cast a spotlight on the delights of cold water surfing.

This four minute clip was shot over two months across the mountain-backed Lofoten Islands in Norway, where Maria spends time sharpening her skills. Maria's also keen to represent Sweden in the 2020 Olympic Games, putting in the hours to up her professional game.

We caught up with Maria and filmer/boyfriend Pontus Palsson, to talk surfing frigid waves, the nuance of cold water shredding and why Maria filmed this cut specifically to drop today on International Women's Day. Jump in.

Tell us a bit about yourself, where did you grow up and where did you learn to surf?
MP: I am from the south of Sweden but I have spent most of my time in the Arctic, Australia and Spain. When I was about 17-years-old I went to a surf camp in France, and after my first wave I told myself ”this is what I want to do” and since then, surfing has been my top priority.

Now I am competing for the Swedish National Team, I won my first competition last year and I am aiming for the Olympics in 2020.

© 2021 - Pontus Palsson

What is the inspiration behind the edit?
Pontus [Palsson] has filmed a few skate parts before, and brought up the idea of making a surf part pushing the female side of Arctic surfing. Hopefully we can inspire more girls to surf in cold waters.

This is your first edit and has dropped today on International Women’s Day – did you want to show a bit more of the female aspect of arctic surfing?
Yes, I am overly excited for my first edit to also be the first ever Swedish female surf edit, and I hope it won’t be the last one.

There are quite a few female surfers in the Arctic surfing freezing waves everyday, and it makes me so happy to see more girls out in those cold waters, all those girls are rad. I hope this edit will inspire more cold water surf girls to show the world what they do

I hope this edit will inspire more cold water surf girls to show the world what they do. Surfing in the Arctic can be really challenging, especially when the north is bringing those icy winds, snowy clouds and 3°c swells, and still there are sometimes more girls in the line up than guys - I love it.

As a surfer in the arctic, how difficult is it to get noticed in the surf world?
The non-arctic surfers in the world seem to love watching cold water surf, and it seem to be on most people’s bucket list nowadays, so it is definitely getting more attention.

I am very lucky to have such great sponsors who supports me in competing internationally and helps me get noticed in the surf world. 

© 2021 - Pontus Palsson

Tell us a bit about surfing in the Arctic, how remote are the setups, or is that a very romanticised way of viewing it?
It is so magical sitting in the water, watching snow covered mountains, surfing perfect waves with only your friends and see massive eagles flying past, it never gets boring.

The cold is as challenging as it looks, especially when you are getting changed outside after a surf. I have cried a few times while taking my wetsuit off, getting frozen fingers when you’re halfway through taking your 6mm wetsuit off and having your hair turning in to an icicle will bring those tears out regardless of who you are. Though we went on one remote surf mission last year, it took us a whole day of hiking up and down mountains to reach the spot

But it is not as remote as you would think, as most spots have easy access. Though we went on one remote surf mission last year, it took us a whole day of hiking up and down mountains to reach the spot, but only one wave from there made the edit, and unfortunately I can’t reveal which one [laughs].

How do you keep yourself motivated when it’s freezing outside?
Sometimes when it’s really freezing conditions I think ”why am I doing this to myself”, but as I never have a specific answer for it, I guess it is my love for surfing that keeps me motivated.

Thanks Maria and good luck with the 2020 campaign.

© 2021 - Pontus Palsson

Pontus Palsson
How did you get started in surf videography?
PP: I’m pretty new to the surf world. I got introduced to surf photography/videography when I meet Maria around two-years-ago.

Before I meet Maria I’ve filmed a lot of street skateboarding, so it was a fun transition to start filming surf instead. Totally different. No streets, people in the way of the shoots or angry people telling you it’s illegal to skateboard or film at the spot. Just water, mountains and surfers.

How did you get involved with this project?
It was pretty much like: Pontus: “We should film a surf part.” Maria: “What’s a part?” I guess doing “parts” is not as common in the surf world as it is in the skate world [laughs].

We got the idea somewhere in the end of September and started straight away to film as much as possible as soon as possible as The Arctic goes totally dark in the end of November.

© 2021 - Pontus Palsson

And shooting in the arctic comes with its own set of complexities, how do you prepare for shooting in the cold?
Yeah it sure does. My biggest problem when filming was batteries going from 30 per cent left, to dead in two minutes. And of course, every time you are going out to film it’s kind of a mission (but most of the time worth it). I felt like I was dying. And no, I got no good shoots from that day [laughs]

Warm clothes, warm water for wetsuits (and coffee) and normally if it’s windy I’ll use a facemask. Worst memory is standing in a snowy rain blizzard-kind-of-storm filming. It really sucked and I had no protection for the rain so I was soaking wet. I was cold, hungry and swearing a lot to myself. But I stood my ground and continued filming, though I felt like I was dying. And no, I got no good shoots from that day [laughs].

© 2021 - Nok Sandholm.

What equipment are you using?
At the moment, I’m using a Sony a99ii and a Panasonic GH4, 24-70 2.8, 70-200 2.8 and a 150-600mm.

For the edit I also filmed with an Elmo 650s super 8 camera. And used some expired Kodak Ektachrome super 8 film from 1982. They got really grainy (as seen in the footage) due to the expired dates. I like the feeling when old meets new. It just gives a better feeling to it. Personally, I’d rather watch an low budget edit that gives you some kind of feeling, then an edit with just 8k, Hollywood production shoots.

© 2021 - Pontus Palsson

And offering a platform for someone like Maria who's put in the time must be a good feeling?
It’s cool to be able to film your girlfriend while she surfs. It feels like most of the time it’s the other way around. Girlfriend on beach. Boyfriend in the water.

It’s a crazy feeling to make something like this for someone you love and I think she’s such a hardcore surfer. Always charging with a smile on her face! I also feel like it’s important to push the women side of surfing, without ass and tits.