Surf’s up in Finland!

baltic2When most people think of surfing, tropical destinations such as Australia or Hawaii come to mind. But what very few people realise is that Finland’s coasts are supporting a growing surf scene, despite the fact that the water is freezing and the waves puny.

It’s estimated that there are around 500 devoted surfers in Finland. For the past seven years, Finnish surfers have been gathering annually abroad in places like Portugal and Morocco to determine the best Finnish boarder. But last year, the country hosted its first-ever surfing contest in Finnish waters.

The Helsinki Times reports that those in the know head to the southwest corner of the archipelago for waves. Towns like Pori and Hanko are gaining a reputation for decent surf and a burgeoning crew of local wave riders. But there are also decent waves along the Finland-Sweden border.

With no swell or reef to push waves onto shore, Finnish waves are created by the force of the wind, which means most of the time they are small and a bit choppy; but once in a while the weather kicks things up a notch, and this is what Finnish surfers wait months for.

“There is potential, but only once a year or so is it really good. You can get a few half-decent days though,” says one dedicated surfer named MacGregor. “The waves don’t have a lot of power, but you don’t expect them to be massive. It’s a novelty. But when you go for so long without surfing, anything will do.”

The frigid water temperatures sometimes only between 1-4 degrees aren’t an obstacle either. “The cold doesn’t matter much,” says MacGregor. “You wear a wetsuit, booties, hood and gloves, so you’re pretty much covered. The technology is now there that it’s not too bulky. You’re either paddling or surfing so you don’t get too cold.” Fortunately, Finland has an equally dedicated sauna scene.