Europe's coastline is punctuated with world class setups. When you think of the Old Continent, it is images of South West France that conjure, Portugal, of course, the Basque, Ireland, Cornwall – but perhaps maybe you'd never gazed towards, say, Poland.
And why would you have? The nation has no access to the ocean, only skirted by the frigid Baltic Sea – which is a fickle pursuit at best.
Yet, there's a burgeoning surf scene emanating from the Polish coastline, carefully being nurtured by a tight-knit local crew of frothers. Such as lensman Krzysztof Jedrzejak, (see his Insty HERE) responsible for setting up one of Poland's first surf schools. But also, has turned his hand to documenting each session that throws down along the coast, and is the composer of all you see throughout this feature.
So, we caught up with Krzysztof to talk surf scene in Poland, his top images and surfing frozen peaks.
Tell us a bit about yourself, where did you grow up and what inspired you to shoot surf photography?
I was born in Poland by the Baltic Sea and that's where I live right now. I started surfing in 2005 in a small village of Woolacombe in North Devon UK, after I took one year off from my studies to earn some money.
The village showed up as a place with beautiful waves. After coming back to Poland I was frothing for more surf adventures, so I started to look for the local surf spots.
I'd kind of thought about the huge potential and opportunities that the Baltic may have, so with a group of local surfers we started to explore our coast.
Then I realised the need to document our sessions and show the world that here in Poland on our small, shallow and cold sea without any access to the ocean, you can also surf.
Now, don’t get me wrong, Europe’s full of incredible setups – but I never imagined Poland to look so….inviting! How’s the surf scene over there?
The Polish surf scene is just starting to form. As far as I know, the beginnings of Polish surfing were in the middle of 90’s. But they were single people riding waves on a bodyboard or windsurfing boards with no sail.
When I started to surf Baltic waves, there was only a bunch of surfers who knew each other and sharing waves. All our equipment was ordered from abroad or brought from surf trips in Europe.
The crucial moment was when we learnt that you can catch waves on the Baltic during winter time. Yeah, the water temperature is freezing but the sea is mostly hit by storms.
At that time there were about 10 cold water surfers in Poland. But it's really over the pasty three years that it has grown. More and more surf schools with ISA accreditation have appeared, as well as surf equipment distributors, surf rentals... A lot of people want to try surfing Baltic waves, so sometimes, in high summer season on a good forecast, you can spot around 30 people in the lineup.
It’s also worth mentioning that there is a new generation of young surfers who rip and represent our country at the ISA Junior World Championships regularly.
For those who aren't familiar with the Baltic Sea, there's no access to the open ocean and the swells it generates, so I imagine it is damn fickle?
I agree it’s very fickle [laughs]. You have to know that the Baltic is a small and shallow sea with a low salinity level and without access to the ocean.
There are not many days in Poland when we can catch ocean-like waves and even on a good days, the whole fun may last only a few hours.
It all makes us appreciate more those right moments and places when we score a good session. We read forecasts but there are sometimes disappointments at the spot.
How often do you get days like that image you tagged us in on Instagram?
Frankly speaking, not every session on the Baltic looks like that. Mostly, we surf windy and choppy conditions when waves are short and on a small period.
Still there are around 15 days a year when long distance swell from the north of the Baltic means we can have nice, clean walls. It’s also important to know how local surf spots work. We have discovered the places exposed to little swells on a 6-8 second period which can offer us perfect lines.
What’s the water temperature like?
For surfers across the rest of the world, the Baltic wouldn’t be a dream place because of these temperatures. In the summer, the water is about 18℃ while in winter it is below freezing.
Baltic cools down quite fast and there isn’t a gulf stream, so the water temperature may drop down to 0℃ and then to -10℃ - and you can imagine how funny it is for me to shoot in such harsh conditions. You can definitely put the Baltic on the list of coldest surf destinations on earth.
What’s a typical day like in the world of Krzysztof Jędrzejak
My typical day mainly depends on the season, apart from the fact that I study Baltic forecasts every day.
In the summer season, together with my surf mate, we run a surf school and surf rental. We have a camper and a trailer full of boards and wetsuits to visit the best spots and give lessons.
It’s a perfect time for our business both for weather (water temperature) and numbers of people visiting our coast. Outside of the summer season I mostly take surf photos but I also shoot commercial photography for food, interiors and events. I have to mention that my portfolio is already rich enough to publish a book on Baltic surfing this year.
Do you think more should be done to promote Poland as a surf destination – or is it a locals only gig?
There’s still a lot to do. I try to promote Polish surfing through photography and in some different ways, both in Poland, and abroad.
As I said, the Polish surf scene is just starting to form, new structures are created to give people an easier access to this beautiful sport. I don’t think that Poland can ever aspire to top European surf destinations but it’s good to know that when you visit our country you can grab a surf board and have fun.
Tell us a bit about culture and life in Poland?
Poland is a very beautiful country with rich culture and history, not to mention a local cuisine and the famous Polish hospitality.
Our country has gone through an enormous transformation and now everyone can feel happy and fulfilled as in most developed countries in Europe. I met a lot of visitors who admired Poland and were very positively surprised. As for surfing I think that most of our society don’t realise that it exists at all. That is why we concentrate so much on promoting surfing in Poland.
Ok, talk us through some of your top shots from across Poland.
I think this is probably the best shot that I’ve taken on the Baltic so far. It was taken in October 2015.
It was the cover of Surfmag magazine, a calendar and it’s definitely a bestseller. The photo shows my mate Kamil Piotrowski who was waiting for a good moment to get to the lineup.
A moment after taking this picture, Kamil slipped and got some bruises. For me the composition of this photo is complete and the bird in the upper left corner is a cherry on top. You know, there could also be a rider in a barrel but hello, we are on the Baltic [laughs].
Polish Independence Day [11.11.2017] was one of the best surfing days on our coast. I have never seen such long rides on a left-hander.
They looked like the ocean. In the photo is 18-year-old Kuba Kuzia who is the current Polish surf champion. He had the lineup to himself, threw some airs, caught some tubes... Since that day every single session has been compared to the Independence Day.
This photo perfectly shows what winter surfing is like in Poland. Path to the spot does not always lead by warm sand. Some guys decided to paddle thru this big icy puddle.
Ice wave is something I had waited for from the beginning of my Baltic photo adventure. There's a lot of factors that go into shooting this photo. There were frosts below -10 ℃ for over a week, so the freezing water was like an icy shake. The wave seems to be to small to ride it but a skilled longboarder or SUP’er could take advantage of it – and would be the first one who rides an icy wave in Poland.