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Photo: @livepantai

Pushing the limits with Maria Petersson

What is it like to be the National Surfer of Sweden? We decided to contact Maria Petersson to find out and understand a bit more her passion of cold-water surfing along the way. If you don’t know who she is yet, I am sure you’ve probably seen it in your Instagram feed surfing epic waves in the dreamiest (and coldest) spots. She is talented on a surfboard, but also down to earth when not surfing. Grateful to be lucky enough to surf waves like she does, you can only instantly adore her.

Do you know anything about surfing in Canada?

I know there is a guy called Pete Devries that surf and he is from Canada. I also met a guy in Western Australia that was from there; he is a surf photographer and he keeps posting beautiful photos from the middle of nowhere. It seems like there are really good waves! 

Oh yes, there are! Surfing when you are surrounded by mountains and pine trees feels like a dream.

I used to live in the Arctic during a year and a half. Up there, it’s insane! You just sit there and watch the mountains, it’s beautiful. Before a surf session, you call all your friends and go with all of them. We were maybe 16 surfers at the time, and we were always surfing in groups. It is not like here, that when you find a spot you don’t call anyone and keep it for yourself. 

It is probably the beauty of being in a small place, sharing the stoke! You grew up in Sweden, so how did the passion of surfing find you? 

I didn’t start surfing until I was 18, actually. A friend and I decided to go to Hossegor for a surf holidays during our last year of high school and I fell in love with surfing. I thought to myself, “that’s what I want to do. As soon as school will be over, I will just leave and do this”. I went to school for another year and five days after I was done, I worked to get money then flew straight to Australia. Since then, I’ve never really been back to Sweden. I do surf sometimes back home, but I haven’t lived there for a few years now. 

Why did you decide to come back if you could have stayed in Australia?

It was only because my visa was for a year. You could do two years, but you had to go work on a farm, so I decided to go another year to study instead! I love that country.

I am quite impressed to see how amazing you are on a surfboard, even though you’ve only learned how to surf later on in life. Did you think surfing would become such a big part of your life while growing up?

At all, before my world was gymnastic! I was competing quite a lot and I never thought of surfing. Surfing did take over my gymnastic though, I almost don’t do it anymore. Surfing limits you in a way because it runs your mind. I will never travel to a big city because I want to go surf. Since I was 19, I’ve been living in places where you can surf because it is my main focus. It is like a disease; you need to be somewhere that allow you to surf. It controls your actions! 

Oh, I agree! It controls everything in your life.

I was telling a friend the other day that it is so strange; I lived in the Canaries for a while, almost every winter for 5 years, and last April I moved to Cornwall in England. Everyone kept saying, “how can you move to new places and give up everything without being scared?”. It’s so hard to explain people that when you have surfing, everywhere feel like home. You don’t feel like an outsider.

It still takes some guts to do it, which can be hard for some people. What are you doing in Cornwall now? 

I was working before, then I started school. Now I do it online; I study health with a Sweden school so it allows me to be anywhere in the world. 

That’s the best! What are your goals with surfing?

Hmm. I’ve been competing a bit and I will probably compete more, but only to challenge myself. Competing is a whole different sport, it works for some people, but not for me. I don’t want to be disappointed. I want to go surfing for myself because I love being in the water and have fun. I do it because I want to be better than what I am now. 

So, if surfing isn’t on your list career-wise, I would assume that you would like to work in the health industry then? 

I don’t know what I want to do. My main dream is definitely to live in a place where you can go surf before work, then work, come back and surf again. I am just happy that way and we will see what will be next. There are certain people that keep talking about what they want to do as a job and their life end up being their job. I don’t want that. I just want to be happy [laughs]! 

It has been almost 10 years since surfing first came into your life—where would you like to travel to next?

I haven’t gone to Bali yet, which is surprising, so there, and California as well for sure! I am so scared that if I go to one of these places, I wouldn’t want to come back. 

Honestly, I am impressed to see you be so good in the water. You truly are a living proof that it doesn’t matter when you start surfing, or where you are from. If you think you can do it and be good at it, you can.

It’s hard sometimes when you are not from a place where surfing is because when you get home, people often ask, “when are you going to start a real life?”. That’s for that reason it’s nice to live in a place where people share the same interests as you. It’s funny when you lead this life, that your goal isn’t to get a job that is necessary well paid, and you go back home to hear that. I don’t go home asking them when they are going to start living their life fully. I love it in the Arctic because there are a lot of inspiring people and they challenge themselves with surfing even though it’s freezing up there. They even go surfing when there is a snowstorm! 

It’s quite impressive to see you enjoy the ocean as much as you do and be talented at it. You’re sharing the joy of connecting yourself to the sea and it is nice to remind ourselves that no matter where you are from, you can surf as much as you want if you are aware that you can!

It’s hard sometimes when you are not from a place where surfing is because when you get home, people often ask “when are you going to start a real life?”. That’s for that reason it’s nice to live in a place where people share the same interests as you. It’s funny when you lead this life, that your goal isn’t to get a job that is necessary well-paid, and you go back home to hear that. I don’t go home asking them when they are going to start living their life fully. I love it in the Arctic because there are a lot of inspiring people and they challenge themselves with surfing even though it’s freezing up there. They even go surfing when there is a snowstorm! 

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