"I thought I would never be scared at home in the Baltic, but this session had waves had that terrified me," says Swedish surfer Freddie Meadows says about a slab in his new movie Live to Sea.
The film follows Sweden's only professional surfer on a journey of discovery along the coastline of his homeland. This stretches for 2000 miles, most of it in the semi-enclosed Baltic Sea. Due to massive freshwater runoff from the land and limited saltwater inflows from the Danish straits, the water in the sea is brackish water instead of seawater.
Regardless of the salt content, it is bloody cold. The average water temperature hovers around 48-50 °F and drops to freezing over winter when the waves tend to be at their best. It is also, in surfing terms, largely unexplored. Guarded by remote forests and with only the biggest localized storms providing swell, this isn't an easy place to find waves. It is equally fickle, beautiful, remote, and challenging. What it isn't is crowded.
"In a proper ocean like the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian or the North Sea you get to see how a wave reacts every day," says Freddie. "In the Baltic, you might surf a wave ten times in five years. To score a single reef on its best day ever… in Sweden, that can take a whole lifetime."
That doesn't stop Meadows from undertaking a quest to find the best waves he can in the Baltic. It is both a physical and spiritual journey as the film documents his recovery from an auto-immune disease when he was 19, which left him unable to cut his own food, let alone surf. His quest also sees him turn his back on a fledgling competitive career, where he was surfing on the European QS circuit up until 2015.
Eventually, he not only finds a quality Baltic slab that he's dreamed of since he was a kid but also a vindication of the decisions he's made. "This wave has given me a whole new depth to what I could achieve in my life and made me realize that now I was on the right surfing path for me."