We left Stockholm at around 11pm… What excited me the most was that if everything went to plan, we’d arrive at 01.30am and potentially be paddling out at 03.00am… Getting tubed at 3.05am with the sunrise and the peak of the swell. It’s magical having enough light to surf so early in the day. This session marked the commence of the 20 hour swell window… We will have long days with plenty of swell window from now until october, and I plan to celebrate that by heading out on every interesting storm in search of special places to practice a very special act.
What was so special about this mission was that we weren’t going on the swell or storm of the year, we were going out on a below average chart. The search for a reef or sand bank that can turn minimal “Baltic” swell into something interesting, something more than just “surfable”… In my eyes and amongst all my plans, this would be the most challenging and in many ways, the most rewarding. We all know that when the stars align in the baltic – it can get good… Valhalla good. Good enough to be stoked even if it were abroad. A kind of foreign quality… But to find a spot that can offer clean tubing waves at the same time as magnifying minimal Baltic swell; a swell which would usually be seen as a “maybe” or “bring your longboard” kind of forecast, is what I was after and would be the solution to many of the frustrations we face as swedish surfers. Those swells happen all the time in the baltic. If that code could be cracked then all of sudden we’d be surfing and surfing good waves a lot more often…
The only light left was pale, almost silver. The sun had set two hours prior and the world was now at its darkest. However in an hour it would be surfably light. We parked the car and started organising our packs for the hike out to the chosen area. The last time we stood outside the car was at a gas station on the outskirts of stockholm, now we were in the midst of natural silence. The only occasional sounds were from the birds in the tree tops and the distant rumblings of a set hitting the coastline. That feeling never gets old. It’s like an instant connection to your surroundings. A connection I only find when amongst nature. The further we went into the woods the more focussed and energised we became. A walk that would ususally take 40 minutes took half an hour. We arrived at Valhalla… I had to be certain that this swell was too small and weak to for her to even start showing some teeth. It was almost dishearteningly small… It seemed like our mission may have been in vain. How could it possibly work anywhere when it looks like this here? We spent 15-20 minutes watching and turned back towards the car. Time for plan B.
I double checked my maps and we headed for plan B. A 5km stretch of coast that rises out of 100m depth with, as far as the map showed, an abundance of potential along the entire exposed shore. It was surreal. Driving through beautiful forgotten villages and valleys where the layers of fog had rule over what was to be seen and what was subtly missed in this secretive place.
We had arrived. It was around 03:15 but felt like midday… After what seemed like hours of twisting and turning we finally parked the car where the road turned to forest and made for the coast. I’ve personally always thought that the Valhalla coastline was as magical as it gets, but this surpassed Valhallas raw emptiness. The forest was slightly thicker, the rocky coastline was narrower and the drop off to the ocean was slightly more abrupt. Everything was cozier but somehow more dramatic. There were slabs of rock that resembled a giant’s dinner table surrounded by scattered stools. The energy of this place was old but still very present.
It was raining… Not enough to stop any expedition, but enough to remind us of our unworthy apparel. We were dressed for a dry spring morning not a flashback of autumns wrath. We had walked roughly 500m and were totally soaked through. We cllimbed up and around the last mound before the coast. During our walk we could see waves bombarding the cliff side far to the right amongst the fog. There was definitely more swell here than Valhalla and we hurried on. We came around the south-eastern side and were met by a really interesting right hander… The wind had dropped but the texture was still somewhat choppy. However, the right consistantly bowled on to the reef shelf; almost tubing… It was a beautiful site but with 4km’s left to explore, we moved on. The further we walked the more exposed and therefore bigger the waves became. It almost seemed too deep and too shallow at the same time. Swells would suddenly rise only to violently explode on dry rocks. So many “if only’s”… I came to the harsh realisation that we might not score at all… I always hope – never expect, but the disappoinment is the same nonetheless. We had walked 3 of the 4 kilometeres with no luck at all, only beauty. And we were so cold and wet by this point that we were soon about to abort. About 200m in the distance I saw a bright orange and yellow tree… It almost looked on fire. A welcome contrast to the grey and the fog. There seemed also to be whitewater breaking in front of it and a little further out than compared to what we’d seen. I hooted to Freddie and upped the tempo.
To be honest it looked flawless, but a touch too small. A perfect slabbing right, spitting on occasions but still we thought it was just too small, plus we were really cold which i’m sure removed some enthusiasm. We found shelter under the decaying roof of an old hunting tower. Finally dry. We removed our wettest items and hung them up watching the ocean, analysing the 2 reefs in front of us. As sudden as predicted the offshore winds were released and they instantly groomed the lineup. Its amazing how differently waves can behave when blessed with an offshore breeze. The waves were so clean and beautifully round that there was now no option but to embrace my soaking wetsuit and give it a go… At least to get wet in this magical place.
We were so wrong…
I timed the set, negotiated the slimiest rocks i’ve ever encountered and leaped out beyond the shorebreak into the recently thawed sea and slowly paddled out to the peak. I wanted to have a sideview on the sets and see what I was dealing with. I was greeted by a sight that made me laugh aloud. The sets were more than double of what they appeared to be from the beach and were slabbier and shiftier to. It almost felt like surfing a smaller more compact version of backdoor\ off the wall with waves breaking and focussing on different parts of the reef according to their direction. The best part seemed to be deepest but the desired section broke on dry reef… Whilst sitting on the deeper section I missed a set that swung in to the wider peak.. I saw three waves in a row throw and spit a few seconds later. I readjusted and lined up with that same yellow\ golden tree seen on the beach. I started backdooring every wave I could knowing that the next set could be my last as the swell was due to vanish at any moment.
It wasnt until I checked my ratio that I realised how good this wave was. I had made 4 out of 5 barrels and i’d been in the water no more than 30 minutes. I’d take off as deep as I could, draw one pump up and in and hold my line hoping to come out before the shorebreak on the inside…
My hands and feet were numbing and I could see Freddie starting to seize up on the beach. I couldn’t possibly ask more of him after following me through this madness. I left the water, we grabbed our gear and made it back to the car; cold, wet, exhausted but buzzing. I often looked back with excitement but no more sets appeared.
From my experience it’s always the hours following that one can really absorb and reflect on what had just happened. We packed and warmed the car, lowered our seats and prepared to pass out for a few hours before heading back to the city. Fredrik was out before me… I remember looking around and feeling such gratitude and love for life. I was so satisfied and fulfilled! I never wanted to leave… We had done it! we had found the magical magnifying chunk of reef – and we named it Glaser…
GLASER – A golden yellow grove of leaves located outside of Valhalla.
All photos by Fredrik Skogkvist