Meanwhile back in Sweden... Dawid Mocke at the Spring Surfski Camp

Tuesday, 15 May 2012 19:13 | Written by  Paul Rosenquist
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Meanwhile back in Sweden...  Dawid Mocke at the Spring Surfski Camp Credits: ERIK ARNSTRÖM & PETER SVENSSON ( & JONAS HOLLANDER

So, it must be spring again! Because the Swedish Surfski Spring camp is on this weekend! It’s still a bone shaking 10degrees outside and the water hasn’t become warmer than a cold beer should be.

I’ve personally had a hectic time during this spring going hard with a new job, moving to our new house, training in between, lots of travel, the usual. I basically took the surfski bug, and smacked it against the wall for a while.

A week ago, I unpacked. Looking at the smelly, sorry heap of unwashed 6-month-old neoprene laid before me, I started missing the paddle erg.

The first 5 sessions out on the windy waters of Stockholm downtown were horrible: cold, wobbly, no rotation, straining back.  (Of course if someone asked, I’d answer that its lovely and I’m having a blast! Feeling strong and yeah, the erg paddling really paid off! I guess I am good at selling stuff - even to myself.)

Spring Surfski Camp

Luckily, Peter Ekström, bless him, came up with a good solution: a spring camp for Surfski paddlers.

So, now going into its 4th year and getting more and more popular.  This year he managed to find 68 idiots like me. I’m not alone.

Still hardly convinced by my own sales story, we pack a bunch of carbon surfskis to our roof rack, and stuff the car with enough rubberized clothing to equip the entire red-light district in Amsterdam.

Weather: 9degrees, rain, wind 20knots.

Peter made the fantastic move to invite Dawid Mocke to the camp; someone I’ve had the pleasure to meet on many different continents and someone that from day one (2003 for me) I respected as a very great ocean paddler.  Little did I know that I’d underestimated this guy’s abilities and skills. He’s not just a great paddler but also willing to share his passion, experience, energy and view on life.

Peter Eckstrom

Peter "the General" Ekström : photo Nils Karls /Paddling


We started the Friday off with stacking up on Falukorv. A huge red-colored sausage made out of bits and pieces you find in the Swedish countryside. Peter did not want us to starve.

After that we slowly started squeezing ourselves into various rubberized or otherwise waterproof clothing.  We met up on the beach looking like a bunch of fisherman from Deadliest Catch.  No catch maybe nor the boat, but absolutely deadly.

Dawid, however, was very worried about his man-points and refused to join the dress up party. He figured Fenn shorts, two lycras, and a Fenn hat would do. Did I mention barefoot? I wear boots a fireman would be jealous of.

Dawid Mocke

Dawid Mocke - slightly under-dressed by Swedish Spring standards: Photo Peter Svensson


Daw took us through a lot of basics, that in fairness, I guess I knew. But no one ever explained the stuff so well, so now it feels I not only know this, but also understand it. Inspirational!

We hit the water.

The wind was not up yet, but there is this feeling you get when paddling on open water that just can’t be replicated on flat water by boat wakes. The randomness in the swells, the endlessness in the waves, the space (and the intimidation!). Even though it was calm, there was a small swell rolling. I caught the first few proper bumps of the year and BOOM… the Surfski bug bit me hard again! This is lovely! Paddling hard, letting the ski do the work, trying to figure the water out and apply all the little skill I have to keep the ski going fast. All the while trying to keep up with (or drop) other guys.

Easy as ABC

Later that evening Dawid took us through his ABC of surfski paddling.  Again, stuff I had figured out already…usually the hard way. But the way Dawid presents is just formidable! An EXCELLENT speaker and teacher.

Dawid Mocke

Dawid doing the ABCs: Photo Peter Svensson

I am 100% sure than anyone in the room ranging from Tommy “the Greek Statue” Karls to Louise, a girl that had her second paddle in her life that day, walked away from that evening with something new learnt.

Day two - Downwind

Wind blowing, trees shaking: perfect conditions.

We did a morning session paddling in and out into the weather and getting used to positioning the ski on the waves again. We did 5 laps out an in to small island 1000m offshore. Every lap I noticed I was relaxing more in the upwind paddling and I gained more control on the downwind stretch. We had perfect 1m waves with the odd swell bump that was bigger sometimes.

We were now not only a lot of paddlers, we had swimmers as well, but our sheltered bay was a perfect retreat for those who wanted to focus on paddle technique with Conny “I’m studying Biology” Ekholm or just get used to sitting in a ski. A smörgasbord of paddling conditions and surfskis to choose from.

Falukorv... and downwind!

After having thawed our limbs and hung our wet gear to get slightly less wet it was time to get stuffed on Falukorv again. Amazing stuff that goes straight to your biceps!

Big downwind was in the air! We split the massive group in three, one going for a 22km downwind, one doing a 9km downwind and one practising re-entry and paddle technique in the bay. Water still beer temperature (i.e. icy), wind howling, 22km of open water… downwind paddling means chasing runs.

Runs go all over the place, and therefore it is impossible to stick together. Sure enough, we headed out of Grisslehamn harbor, and after 5 minutes I could not see any of my 8 paddle mates. Oh well, the GPS pointed straight ahead, the wind was pushing in my back, and some pretty massive swells were racing in from my left shoulder. PERFECT!

I can’t really say I relaxed; you feel a bit on edge, you know that you can’t swim far in water this cold.

So, chasing hard to get the nose into that gaping hole in front of you sometimes suddenly feels scary and I would back off of a half second and miss the run. But so many runs were taken, and I enjoyed every second of it:

Paddle hard, steer right, paddle down, swing left, WOW big breaking wave, watch out next one will break from behind, maintain speed, perfect.

17km/h, oops watch the heading, going straight towards land now, swing left. Where is Tommy or Dawid?? Quick peek…no one. Focus. Need to drink. FLUUUSHH… swamped the ski, full of water, not good, stop fucking around and paddle hard. Next bump is mine, swoosh, 18km, ski empties in seconds, this feels good again.

Wow is that a reef ahead of me? Go Inside or outside… like that for 100minutes.

Finally I rounded the point and turned into our dead calm bay. I noticed Peter standing on the rocks with a huge telelens camera. I’m not more than 20m away from him… OK. A few more powerful strokes for the camera… I do them, relax, and notice than I’m keeling over to the left… when I open my eyes, my ski is floating next to me and I am in the drink hahaha…

Some beers, some good stories, and a lot of Falukorv fills the evening.

Day Three – Race Day

We plan a small race with a choice of two courses: 10km and 5km.  There’s immediately a buzz in the group.  The sun is shining hard but it’s still freezing cold.  People are prepping their kit and it’s a good atmosphere on the beach. Only 10km, don’t need to bring juice. Tommy does a great job talking us through the race.

Tommy Karls

Race briefing from Olympian Tommy Karls  Photo: Erik Arnström

Not much later the traditional way of starting a surfski race, READY? (All start paddling like mad)… GO! (No-one is left to go; they’re already gone!)

I for once manage to put myself in the right position close to the fast guys.  But notice quickly that it doesn’t make any difference; I just cannot get a good start. Johan afterwards asked me, Paul why do you start so easy? Trust me I am not… Half the field is already ahead of me, and after 30 seconds, when the pace usually comes down, mine finally is up.

Game on!

Game on!  Gleb and Paul "I locked myself out of a sauna in the nude" Rosenquist. photo Nils Karls /Paddling

I inch my way through the field, and finally its only Tommy, Gleb and Dawid 100meters ahead of me, moving at the same speed. How on earth do you catch up? Long Martin caught up with me from out of nowhere and we paddled together for a while, then he faded back, I guess boiling up in his full body suit made out of garbage bags.

After the 3rd lap I finally catch up with Glebski and realize that the “10km” was more like 15km.  Thirsty! We do the last lap together not saying a word and on the last downwind I pull hard onto some seemingly impossible bumps gaining 30m or so.

On the flat sprint into the bay I manage to keep him off. WOW! What a good feeling to be out on the water racing again, feeling the dynamics of the bumps. It’s such a fun game!

Long Martin

Long Martin - looks good on film as usual Photo: Erik Arnström

Great Weekend

The ride home in the car was proof of a great weekend: I struggled to keep awake; the rest of the guys had passed out. My stomach was struggling with the last overdose of Falukorv, I had sunburn, and my hands were slightly numb.

What kept me awake on the drive was the knowledge that Aterra Leif had to drive to Helsingborg (600km) and Glebski had to drive to Oslo (7hours). It’s cool that so many people dedicate so much of their time to this!

Perfect weekend! Thanks Peter.

For more on Scandinavian surfski paddling, check out Peter Svensson's site: