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Originals, Videos February 27, 2024March 8th, 2024

Quite Literally Baltic

Video by Sam Moody | Photography by Carles Medina | Words by Alexei Obolensky


(of weather conditions) very cold.

“By all accounts Saturday is going to be pretty Baltic”

Freddie Meadows is a striking figure. We first met at the lobby of the Rider’s bar in LAAX, I’ve always maintained hotel lobby bars are always a good starting point for any encounter. Transient places, filled with storied and interesting people.  The details of the conversations at this point are hazy but it was decided that fateful evening by hook or by crook, we would go to Sweden

Now Sweden isn’t the first destination that comes to mind when thinking of surf, but it does tick the box of novelty and as firm subscribers of anything that ticks a box in the realms of novelty, we were in. Plus, we had surfed Ireland, Scotland, Norway and Iceland (twice!) before so how cold could it possibly be? 

How fucking naïve. 

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The Baltic, is a fickle mistress like no other. We don’t have tides to contend with, but we do have a quite literally freezing sea, about 6 hours of daylight and a nightmarish coastal lay of the land – but more of that later. We are in town in late November and by mid December – most of the spots unlikely to be surfable due to them being completely frozen over. Let that settle in for a moment. The Baltic sea is often overlooked, but is a fascinating place. Origrinally named – Austmarr – the “Eastern Lake” by the Vikings and rightfully so, as it’s the world’s largest inland brackish sea. It’s a non salty kinda beast, which renders it partial to the odd freeze. 

Now, we happen to be in Sweden in the coldest start to winter in living memory so the ice is a concern, specifically fast ice which is attached to the shoreline which develops first, rendering ports and all waterways unusable without the services of icebreakers. However, if that wasn’t enough there is also level ice, ice sludge, pancake ice and rafter ice as well as further out to sea pack ice to contend with. The cold is other worldly. It saps the life out of you. I can promise you, sea temp of -1, air temp of -25. Everything stops working, cameras, cars and most worryingly cognitive function. 

Such variables don’t phase Fred. As this is how Fred has spent the past ten years of his life. When Fred decided that the ‘QS wasn’t for him, thank you very much, he set his sights on pastures closer to home. The result is extraordinary. His knowledge of the Baltic coastline is second to none, we’re talking 10 years of mapping the coastline where access for lack of a better word, a total nightmare. By foot, by boat, by car, by jet ski – by any means necessary. The discipline. The sheer futility of it all in the sense when sometimes, despite the exact same forecast as another visit to a certain spot it’s just not doing it, for no apparent reason. 

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We spend 10 days on islands I can’t name under pain of death. 

These islands lay off a series of not really fjords, as they are much smaller but bends and twists in the coastline which render access a nightmare. We spent hours tramping through bogs, woods, snow, mud, rocks, long grass – a scaled down Argentinean tundra –  pure hinterland. To reach the end and see something; nearly a wave, the next one might do it, maybe with more south in the wind, more north in the swell. But, as Fred says to coin an old Viking saying, we must keep ice in our stomachs.

And against all odds, find waves we do. 

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