Portraits Michael Jepsen, @_michaeljepsen_ Action Pontus Palsson @pontus_palsson
Maria Petersson escapes the chilly shores of Norway in search of warm Canary Islands surf in her new surf vid ‘Winter in the West’. Here Maria explains how she got into surfing and about what it’s like surfing near the Arctic Circle.
Maria, tell us about how you first got into surfing.
I grew up by the sea in the south of Sweden, but I didn’t learn to surf until I was in France when I was 17 or 18. I’d planned to backpack around Europe with a friend on our summer holidays, and we ended up staying at a surf camp in France for the whole summer instead, where we fell in love with both the sport and the lifestyle. It was then that I told myself, “this is what I want to do,” and I have designed my life around surfing since then (living in Australia, France and Spain). The last few years I’ve been competing both individually around Europe but also for the Swedish National Team. In May this year I came 33rd in the World Surfing Games and just a few weeks ago I managed to win the Lofoten Masters.
Have you had to overcome any struggles when learning to surf?
When I was younger I had problems with having my head under water and holding my breath, and that is a fear that I still work hard to overcome. It doesn’t come to me naturally, so every time I have a bad wipe out I have to think my way through calming down so I can hold my breath for longer. Growing up in Sweden I didn’t spend time in the ocean as it’s freezing cold, so learning how the ocean works has also been a big challenge for me.
What’s it like surfing in Norway?
I have mostly just surfed up in Lofoten, in the north of Norway above the Arctic Circle. Even though it’s way further north than where I used to surf in Sweden, it’s warmer up here thanks to the Gulf Stream. The Lofoten Islands are incredible in many ways; while sitting in the freezing cold water you will be looking at snow covered mountains, big eagles flying past and sometimes orcas swimming nearby, too. Each surf session is a bit of a mission as you need to bring so much gear, but it is worth it every time, even those times you are halfway through taking your wetsuit off and your fingers and hair are frozen and you start crying :).
What are the waves like?
The waves up here are really good and powerful, and most of the time it’s glassy. I have had many of my best surfs up here. The waves are best in winter, but in winter there is no daylight here, so there are a lot of un-ridden waves that roll through in the darkness. However, in summer you can surf 24/7.
“The waves up here are really good and powerful, and most of the time it’s glassy”
Is there a big surf community over there?
The surf community is not big up here but it is definitely growing. This is because wetsuits are getting better and better, which allows more people to surf in the cold conditions, and also because ‘cold-water surfing’ has been so exposed in media, so it’s becoming a popular surf destination.
Are there many women taking up surfing in Norway?
There are actually quite a few girls surfing up here in Lofoten, and I know there is a big crew of surfer girls in the rest of Norway as well. In Lofoten I have seen a big difference in women’s surfing just in the last 4 years – there is way more of us and I love it!
Follow Maria on Instagram here @miamariapetersson