Frontier Stories #2: New Year’s Day

This memory comes to us from John Brodie, who is currently on the North Pole. 

nordic surf

New Year’s Day

By John Brodie

They say the best experiences often go unwritten- this one almost did. Before moving to Sweden this March I managed (with some help from friends) to set up a visit to a small island in Stockholm’s archipelago. I began writing this story in Hawaii last year and wasn’t able to grasp the commitment and the all around manliness that comes from entering, and hopefully exiting, Swedish waters in the thick winter. While working for Patagonia in San Francisco, I’ve taken my Ocean Beach beatings, but this was raw. I hope you come to understand it took a year and a move to Sweden to fully understand what I saw on new years day.

nordic surf

I was sitting at the Volcom Pipe Pro, I had just witnessed Mark Healey and his blonde Samurai ponytail make a drop on an absolute bomb. I began to daydream about where I was one month ago. Nearly 6,867 miles and 11,052 kilometers from Oahu’s North Shore, in the heart of Scandinavia.

My warm blood was not adept to the unforgiving Swedish winter. Every single day I followed a routine of failing to dress accordingly. Growing my beard out only would lead to embarrassment in an attempt to keep up with the Vikings. On the first morning of 2013 I woke, slightly hung over. After stumbling to the closet, I button up my red and black Jack Spade flannel and charge up the Nikon D60. Anxiously, I sip on a cup of green tea in hopes that my bones soak it up before my phone rings.

nordic surf

Torö is an island about an hour northeast of Stockholm by car or by bus if you’re into that. Don’t worry walking onto a bus wearing a 7mm wetsuit won’t get any weird looks…it’s just another day at the office here. Maybe, if you had a moose attached to a leash instead of a surfboard.

nordic surf

The clock strikes 13:00 and Camilo Blomqvist pulls up in his Volkswagen. Car seats assemble in back of his surf rig, it’s clear to me he is a family man. We shake hands as he hands me a fresh cup of coffee. In about two hours time at 15:00 the sun will set and the darkness will flex it’s biceps, drowning us beneath the notorious Nordic winter. So, without hesitation we slam into the icy roads, and two surfers from opposite ends of the world stir up a fascinating conversation full of similar views of what it takes to lead a life full of stoke. In this case, a little cold-water stoke. He began to tell stories of the island; the half frozen Baltic sea brushing up against the shore building walls of ice as tall as a fishing boat. The one-way road bends around a still pond reflecting the pine trees above. Herds of drunken moose call this bitter place home. If we were to roll the windows down we’d hear the echo of fermented apples splitting between their teeth.  He eyes the sign through the fog and turns on to a road that has not seen a car all winter. It was really cold.

nordic surf

Camilo, half Portuguese and a half Swedish, has been sliding around the island since he was sixteen. He is the man behind Nord Surf – a surf brand out of Sweden, founded in 2002 by a bunch of crazy, maybe stupid, adventurous survivors of the cold-water frontier and makers of custom surf craft. It’s as if they laugh off the frozen snot stuck to their faces. The more you smile in these conditions the harder it is to freeze I guess. Inspiring. While watching the Baltic wrinkle like a sheet of black tin foil, Camilo began to tell me about a heat-tent project he was putting together at the time. The funds would come from the locals, for the locals who have finished the latest three-hour session at Torö. Sorry boys, I think I’d need a little more than a tent. A giant microwave maybe?

nordic surf

This place is home for these conquerors of the cold and I know I grew a few more chest hairs from just being out there that day (yes, I checked). When it all comes down to it, it’s the similar feeling of us get when we pull up to our home break. That feeling is global even considering the temps read: 4 degrees in the air and 2 in the water. A life full of stoke is a life that finds time to park the car at your local break. A little Cold-water stoke.

This story was originally published on NordSurf.com.