A few years back, Polish photographer Krzysztof Jędrzejak shared a few stunning images of his home country going off – and the global surfing collective lost their minds. Those glassed-off, walled waves caught the attention of Joel den-Besten and Tim Latte, a couple of Swedish frothers who know the nuance that goes with chasing a swell in the Baltic. Recently, those lads teamed up with Krzysztof for a strike mission to Poland. Here's how it went, as told to MSW by Joel and Tim.
When someone mentions Poland, waves are definitely not the first thing that comes to mind. But over the last few years, Tim Latte and I have been following the growth of a small surf community along the Baltic coast of the country.
Anyone that has put time into surfing the Baltic Sea knows that a forecast is never 100 per cent fool proof. There is a lot of driving, waiting and even guessing involved and the slightest shift in a forecast can be the difference between super fun, clean waves and blown out garbage. Then when you factor in the freezing climate, it’s probably one of the hardest places in the world to find waves of any quality.
I actually had my eye on another spot in the Baltic that only breaks a few times a year and I decided to check in with Tim to get his thoughts about the forecast. He said that the wind switch looked a bit sketchy and then he asked me if I wanted to go and chase some waves with him in Poland. Poland... yeah why not! So I checked in with my wife and then my colleague, called Tim back and said we’re on!
Tim had been chatting with Krzysztof down there and he was pretty pumped on the prognosis. Three days of swell with hopefully some clean conditions towards the end. So Tim booked flights, accommodation and a rental car and we were all set for the Polish strike.
It’s probably one of the hardest places in the world to find waves of any quality
We arrived after lunch to a building swell but it was still quite small and onshore with some rain in the air. We drove along the coast checking out the beachbreak set ups and then linked up with Krzysztof and another local Kuba. Kuba was frothing on these small waves and that was all we needed to get us in the water for our first session. The water was clear and the sand was white but the waves were terrible. We came in after that first session a little deflated and Krzysztof nervously reassured us that tomorrow would be the day. The swell was meant to fill in over night and the wind would hopefully back off and swing around lunchtime but I could see that he was worried, because with the Baltic Sea you never really know.
We woke up early on Friday to howling wind and checked in with Krzysztof. We were both frothing to get to the coast to see what had happened over night but he told us to relax and wait as there was still too much wind. Tim and I were too excited to just sit and wait so we jumped in the car and drove almost the whole coast line looking for even the slightest bend that may have had some protection from the wind. After a couple of hours in the car and some funny encounters with the local parking mafia we came up empty handed. Once again we were a little deflated and started to wonder if this was a good idea at all. What if the wind doesn’t swing enough to clean up?
We grabbed a coffee and met up with Krzysztof at around 11am and the car park was starting to come alive with locals. The vibes were great and everyone was buzzing to see if the forecast would live up to expectations. We crossed the train-tracks for the hundredth time to go and check the sea and that’s when we saw it. The wind was starting to shift. It was happening!
We suited up and ran back across the tracks to hit the water. We were in our wetsuits for 7 hours and came in a couple of times to drink some water, snack and change boards. Tim and I were sharing peaks all by ourselves on a stretch of beach in the north of Poland! I couldn’t believe it! The whole afternoon was a blur and it finished with an amazing sunset, the whole sky filled with pastel colours.
We woke up the next morning still tired and sore from the day before but hit the water with Krzysztof for one last session before the waves disappeared. It was small but still clean and we surfed for an hour or two before the waves stopped all together. We rounded off the trip with a history lesson at the World War II museum in Gdansk and then Krzysztof showed us around the Old Town. It felt amazing to be travelling again and experiencing a new culture after such a long break and I was re-energised in a way that I hadn’t felt in a while.
We just want to thank Krzysztof and the locals for the amazing hospitality and warm welcome and we can’t wait to get back down there again.
The Baltic Sea is a bit of an untapped territory regarding waves due to many factors; for example, it's fickle and lacks constancy, it's usually cold accompanied with limited daylight during surf season, so you are always in a race against time with small windows of opportunity.
There's a lot to be discovered, even though there's a thriving surf scene nowadays in every country around the Baltic consisting of hungry wave chasers, which is pretty rad to see. People would be surprised how good the waves can get and how crowded the lineups are at times. A lot has happened in the last 20 years up here.
We are all in the same boat up here, just trying to find a decent wave
A few years back, Krystof's photos of perfect glassy waves from his local beach break popped up in my feed and got me all buzzing, I could feel the FOMO growing inside, but this also got me curious about what our neighbouring countries have to offer. The thought of missing out on good Baltic surf might seem absurd when there are so many quality waves elsewhere in the world, but there's something special about surfing here, it's like chasing unicorns, but every once in a long while, you'll score rare Baltic gold. Those are the days we all live for, isn't it?
With travel restrictions recently being lifted, I've become a lot more interested in checking out all the countries around the Baltic, and I thought, why not hit up Krzysztof and start with Poland. Having Joel join the trip was great cause no one is more stoked than him doing things like this.
After eyeing out one of the first immense low pressures of the season passing over, the forecast looked like three promising days of surf in a row, so I sent a text to Krzysztof, who gave us the green light pretty quick. From then on, we were checking every possible way to get there. Our options were to either drive, take the ferry or fly. Driving would have taken us 20 hours, the ferry equally as long, and for us not to miss anything, flying was our only option to make it there on time.
As this was our first time in Poland, we did not know what to expect. All we knew was that there were going to be waves, and the forecast looked solid. We tried not to over-froth as strike missions around here one can easily end up not surfing as the weather changes drastically and swells are short-lived. We took a pretty great leap of faith and just went for it with an open mind. However, Poland really delivered in every way; Krzysztof and the entire surf community were super friendly, showing us the spots and around the city of Gdansk, wave wise we didn't get the best day of the year, but it was good enough to get us psyched. Compared to Sweden, Poland is all beach break with the sandbars moving around, which adds to the list of factors I mentioned earlier, wheres at home we surf more points and cobblestone beaches and don't have to think about yet another variable.
Overall, Poland was an epic trip with fun waves, but scoring the day of the year will be a hard one if you don't live there. We'll definitely have to go back and give it another go as it got world-class waves on its day. We now have to wait for it all to come together even better.
Even though people have been surfing the Baltic since the early to mid-80s, the surf community is still very young, and only in recent years has it truly exploded and solidified its own culture. With that said, we don't really have that local mentality as to what you can find elsewhere; we are all in the same boat up here, just trying to find a decent wave.
But we don't pass the information of spots around, and we believe that people have to put in the time, effort and money as everyone else has done to find them. But at the end of the day, anyone who's up for long drives, surfing sub-zero temperatures and, for the most part, surf piss poor conditions will find Baltic mission buddies to head out on unexpected journeys with.