Welcome to Bornholm Island: A Cold Water Haven in the Baltic Sea

Jason Lock

by on

Updated 545d ago

About a decade ago, there were no surfers on Bornholm, a small island situated to the north of Poland's western flank in the frigid Baltic Sea, hemmed in by Sweden, to its north and Denmark, to the west.

That there are waves there though shouldn't surprise, after all, we know that Poland can pump (see here!), so given its proximity to there, it makes sense that Bornholm can cop it under the brunt of a Baltic thrashing, too.

Dennie Hilding moved to Bornholm nine-years-ago, runs a farm to live sustainably there and has entertained the likes of Freddie Meadows – Swedish pro, who's a fan of surfing Bornholm due to the quietness. Dennie's also the original pioneer of surfing around the isle. The waves? They're certainly serviceable and can whack a bit of punch behind them. Dennie was the first and original surfer of Bornholm, birthing a now 20-strong community who are in the water all year round.

That's not to say it's not all epic surf, 365 days-a-year, though. Like most places, Bornholm has its moments – of which you have to choose carefully and race to get to the lineup before it's all over. As you'd expect, it is mostly consistent throughout the northern hemisphere's winter months, when the tourists have returned home (though one is not the result of the other). And for the locals, there's enough juice in the sea to warm up the dreariest of days. Not too shabby for an island half the size of London.

Anyway, we tapped up Dennie to get a feel for it all. Here's how the conversation went.

You can sneak a shampoo in there!

You can sneak a shampoo in there!

Tell us a bit about yourself, where did you grow up?
Dennie: I was born and raised in Malmö, Sweden where I worked as a clinical psychologist and mental trainer.

Where did you learn to surf?
During my early days, it was hard to find others in my school with the same interest for surfing. But when a small group of friends were introduced to movies such as North Shore and Point Break, things changed and Spain was my first surf destination.

After that trip I went to the local windsurf shop and convinced the owner to order surfboards for me and my friends so we could start surfing on the east coast of southern Sweden. This was pre-internet so we followed the forecasts on text-TV or by calling the local weather station.

Meanwhile, it's not all foreboding seas and cross-shore gales.

Meanwhile, it's not all foreboding seas and cross-shore gales.

Such a great time to surf but tricky though. So what brought you to Bornholm then?
In 2012 me, my wife and daughter left our homeland in Sweden and moved to Bornholm for its great nature and surf potential. We bought a farm with a small piece of land close to the ocean. Being close to nature and the ocean has a very therapeutic effect and helps me create a good balance between activity and recovery.

Dark, cold and brooding? Oh that is what we live for.

Dark, cold and brooding? Oh that is what we live for.

When you first arrived, there were no surfers?
When I moved to the island there where no local surfers, only wind and kitesurfers. After my third year surfing alone on the island another surfer showed up and now we are about 20 year round surfers. We now have a small and great surf community and even a shaper.

What was the locals' reaction when they saw you surf?
This elderly local lady was out walking her dog and saw me paddling out on my own. She probably has never seen a surfer on a stormy sea before so she thought I was in danger and called the cops on me.

Well, guess you can't blame her! So how did you go about scoring waves back then?
Honestly, it was like a dream. I only knew about one spot on the east coast that some Swedish surfers surfed many years before I moved there. Apart from that, I found one spot. Just feel blessed to explore the island on my own and get to know spots and forecasts.

Do you live close to the beach?
Our farm is located on the north shore of the island and a walking distance from the ocean.

And being cut off from the mainland gives Bornholm its own sense of community – do you get a lot of people visiting?
Bornholm is a summer island with a lot of things to do and see during the warm period. The main tourist groups have been pensioners and families. This of course has shaped the tourism into a certain niche. However, this is slowly changing and the island starts to attract younger people.

What are the waves like? Beach breaks? Points?
The Baltic sea is a very small ocean so epic waves for us is probably below average for those surfing the larger oceans.

On epic days, that's around five-to-10 times a year, we can get slabs, pointbreaks and nice A-frame peelers with offshore winds. On average we are happy with shoulder high choppy wind waves [laughs].

How many surfable spots are there?
For a Baltic sea surfer with low expectations [laughs] I would say 100 plus spots.

That'll do most people, I think. Thanks Dennie!

MSW's 'Welcome To' series shines a spotlight on surfing communities across the globe who you may not have thought got waves -- or those who we simply don't see grace the humble pages of surf media often. Take a tour of Poland | The Netherlands | Nova Scotia | Oman | Italy | Sweden | Cornwall | Uruguay | Jersey | Scotland | Denmark | Check back for more soon!