Did you think Sweden and surfing went together like toothpaste and orange juice? Both alright on their own, but combined, it can leave a slightly sour taste – more so if your aim was to hunt waves on the fickle Scandinavian coast.
You'd think but you'd be wrong. For the past few years, we've been following the exploits and ventures of Freddie Meadows, a pro surfer from humble Sweden who packed in the competitive lifestyle to seek decent waves in his home nation. Yeah, we know how that sounds. But would you believe this tenacious, blonde-haired stud found arms-wide tubes in the land of none? Peeling top-to-bottom waves in the land that gave us Ikea and Abba?
Here's some truths; being a surfer from Sweden is tough. Ad dollars rarely extend to the confines of nor'east Europe, despite the stunning and diverse backdrops that make for one of the most dramatic locales to shift foam around. So, that must mean being a surfer from Sweden, who is dedicated to seeking out those setups we doodled as kids, must be double tough. Maybe even triple.
Quasi-mathematics aside, Freddie's cut from the salt of the earth (and is one of the rare few to survive on sponsorship), an affable character who dreams ocean. It also helps he can spin a yarn, so when we tapped him up with a few questions about Sweden, he was more than happy to relay his experience and shine a spotlight on the passionate home-turfers. Here we go.
First, tell us a bit about yourself, where did you grow up?
We travelled plenty, however my father is from England and my mother from Sweden so our time was spent mostly between Åhus (southern Sweden) and London. Looking back, the contrasts have been wonderful. One learns a lot from both a hectic city and being surrounded by nature. Though I appreciated life at the beach in Åhus much more. From day one.
And when did you first start surfing?
Waves have always meant joy, but surfing took a firm hold on me when I was around 13. At that point, it was very rare for a kid to surf in Sweden as one generally has to drive a fair distance to have reasonable waves, so people usually start once they get a drivers license. However, I was lucky enough to have two factors in my favour; that I lived by a beach that could have knee-high windswell running on a weekly basis, which led me to borrowing our neighbours windsurf board and having a go. The other major factor which came into play around a year later was my wonderful mother driving me whenever she could.
Where would you surf?
I’d surf all the breaks that were close to home or within Skåne, the southern most county of Sweden. It was pretty bliss, just taking the bus or train to the surf knowing you’d spend all day there in your suit. This is during summer of course. The autumn/winter surfs were more “in and out” operations.
Even though my parents weren’t together, we always spent Christmas and certain holidays abroad as a family, especially when my brother, father and I started surfing. Which meant we began spending up to ten weeks a year in real surf.
What’s the vibe and surf culture like in Sweden?
Man I love it. Everyone is so passionate and dedicated to riding waves, no matter how small or how windy and cold. They’re pretty hardcore without really knowing it! We have quite a large scene, and its growing rapidly in various walks, styles and locations around the country.
We’re all, in our own ways, scratching the surface of what actually exists here at home in terms of surfWe’re all, in our own ways, scratching the surface of what actually exists here at home in terms of surf.
Talk us through the types of waves you get there?
We get everything apart from groomed long period swells. We can have groomed and powerful short period swells though, that give you six hours of spirituality before vanishing as if it never happened. Back to lake mode.
However, our standard surf is onshore slop. That's our thing at home. We have amazing bathymetry for surfing, so even windswells can be really fun; we just don’t have the true groundswell to do it justice.
But, there are those rare days at some pretty wild locations. Those are the days I live for; when the baltic resembles an ocean, providing waves that’d blow your mind, no matter where you were in the world.
I guess growing up there, you get used to the Baltic Sea temperatures, what thickness is your wetsuit in the winter?
During winter we’re all generally wearing a 6mm, with 5mm gloves and 7mm boots. When out in the archipelagos in midwinter, even that won’t keep you warm for long.
But wetsuit technology has come real far since I was little, wearing double summer suits in winter. And that I am very grateful for. It has opened up so much of our world.
Swells in the Baltic can be fairly short lived, how do you keep sane during down days?
Well, it takes some getting used to. Especially after a long surf trip; the abstinence really kicks in, and hard. I try to stay savvy by supping, doing some cross training… to be honest I get a lot out of the treks and paddles and recon missions in general, as it keeps me fit but also close to what I do.
Some missions require a few days of recovery afterwards. You drive long hours, often throughout the night, you then hike through the forests, maybe even paddle out to an island. And if you’re doing all this when there’s surf, once you’re out there you have to perform at your best on maybe an hour of sleep. So it can be quite intense but so rewarding if you make the right call.
How many pro surfers are there in Sweden?
We have many great surfers these days and the level is getting higher all the time. From the random rippers of the obscure corners of our coasts, to Tim Latte, to Kian Martin and Cristian Portelli who have grown up in Bali and the Canary Islands. The future’s bright.
And what about ad dollars, do you do anything else to bring in cash?
You know what, I count my blessings everyday that I can live from surfing, and dedicate my life to finding the most wave blessed areas of our little sea. And to be representing the brands that I do is at times hard to take in. As they’re not only my dream brands, but also brands that I can stand for 100 per cent; which has always been an important part of this whole vision.