Sweden's coast with sea kayak

Sveriges kust med havskajak

From Svinesund on the Norwegian border to Torne river on the Finnish border

I leave the calm, safe waters of the Falsterbo Canal and come out into the southern Baltic Sea. The people in an oncoming speedboat shout something inaudible. Immediately outside the piers I am greeted by high, sometimes breathtaking swells. A previous storm means that the old lake remains.

I speed over the wave crests to keep my balance, put the paddle in for support as I channel into the next wave valley and at the same time try to get an overview ahead to avoid getting caught in the long hard-to-detect fishing nets that are so common along the coast here or capsize on any sneaky sandblaster It has started to rain and darkness falls when, after a couple of hours, I reach the outskirts of Trelleborg, land soaked in a bay, hide the kayak in a thicket of reeds, look for a hostel and get the last empty bed. The tent is with my paddling friend. We got separated through a misunderstanding already in the channel so I think he is also on dry land.

One episode per summer

Me and my paddling buddy Jan Lönn are on a long trip along Sweden's long coast. Every summer we paddle a section. The start took place under the Svinesund Bridge at the Norwegian border in calm and sunny weather. A perfect start for a long coastal paddle that would take just over ten years or more precisely 110 days and stretch over 289 miles; a journey in both time and space. We avoid the busiest part of the summer. Likewise, we avoid fairways in the most popular archipelagos.

Finland ferry with kayak

The large harbors with ferry traffic pose direct threats to paddlers. Ships and receding waves from piers and paving are sometimes difficult to handle. But otherwise we are conspicuously alone and undisturbed along the long coast. We have food and tents with us and really only need to visit "civilization" to fill up on drinking water or visit a cozy harbor restaurant, often with the delicacies of the sea on the menu.

Depopulation tangible

Bohuslän and Halland, with completely different coastal characters, are easy sections. Now, during non-high season the depopulation is noticeable. We don't get crowded and weather and wind are rarely anything other than pleasant acquaintances. We avoid the worst tourist traps and are therefore guaranteed good cash at all times. Just the touch of Gothenburg gets a bit dramatic. The wind suddenly picks up, changing from fresh to almost a gale before we arrive safely inside Älvsborg's fortress.

In Gothenburg's southern archipelago, we get to know the seals. They are curious, sometimes get very close and feel like our friends. The cliffs along the beaches turn into soft, green meadows when we come down to Halland. Finding a place to camp overnight with a lake view is easy. We pass the busy harbors of Helsingborg and Malmö with a distress call. The piers of the Öresund Bridge gossip about the water flowing north, to the shallow and brackish Kattegat.

Like a long beach

Skåne's east coast is one long bathing beach. At dusk and fresh offshore breeze, I am close to capsize in the cold water at the six kilometer crossing to Hanö in Blekinge. We get scolded by the people in the small port. Jan and I decide to paddle separately from there because we have completely different inclinations to take risks. Instead, Stig Johansson will be my paddling buddy from Karlskrona onwards.

At the border of Småland, we round a headland and paddle almost straight at a sea eagle, which is just as surprised as we are. The desolate beaches in Kalmarsund prove to be very suitable locations for nudist camps and we manage to get lost several times when we try to go ashore there without realizing it.

On a sunny May day, we pass the nuclear power plant in Oskarshamn. Guarding works. A car with guards follows us from the beach as we dash past in a cold headwind and I actually got a bout of seasickness. We are a little disappointed when they realize that we are completely harmless and the car pulls away with a flying start.

The domes in St. Anna

Sankta Anna, what a fantastic name, has a very own character, a spate of skerries and smaller islands. Navigation sometimes becomes a problem. The low heights of the skerries are called Kupor here, which fits well with the scale of the area. We have had time to learn that in the sea zone it is the self-supporting dome tent that applies. Camping on the flat ground slabs right next to the water will then be no problem. The morning dip then takes place more or less voluntarily directly outside the tent.

Stockholm's vast archipelago, which offers everything from green, friendly islands to grumpy rocks and skerries, exhibits the same phenomenon as on the west coast. Outside crowded waterways and overcrowded natural harbors, peace and tranquility prevail. We are mostly alone. Here we praise the Archipelago Foundation, which has ensured that large areas remain unexploited and thus open to active outdoor life.

When we pass the northern pier in Öregrund, Norrland practically begins. All boat traffic ceases as if by magic. The beaches become deserted, the houses few and above all, the coast becomes very rocky and difficult to access. In return, the people we meet get nicer and more talkative the further north we go.

The Norrland coast is very long. The usually south-westerly winds, i.e. tailwind for us, seem to have decided here to temporarily always come from the north instead when we put out from land. The headwind easily sucks the must out of the most enthusiastic sea paddler. Islands to seek shelter behind occur extremely sparingly. But strangely enough, we still keep our usual pace, three to four miles per day.

Sea kayaking can seem monotonous. It can to some extent be compared to mountain hiking. You experience wide expanses, a clear horizon and fresh wind. The paddler is offered good opportunities for meditative activities. But the paddler is probably more at the mercy of the elements than the mountain hiker. However, the days pass far too quickly once the shoulders and stomach muscles get used to it and the sit muscles get the right stretch.

The Västerbotten coast is the most boring

The high coast, one of our world heritage sites, justifies the name. We more or less blow into the small isolated Berghamn surrounded by high mountains and with a witch's cauldron of waves and currents at the entrance. In return, we participate in the village's annual party with dancing, food, drink and good company. Further north, we pass the Dynglasset sker, in the immediate vicinity of which we visit a surprised work colleague in his summer cottage. He quickly arranges the facial features and provides us with carnal stove. The coast of Västerbotten a little further north turns out to have the country's most boring coast, large boulders and large forest mile after mile. The positive is the cozy restaurant in Ratan and that we suddenly get a tailwind.

Suddenly Finnish names

The Norrbotten archipelago, on the other hand, will be a real gem at the end of our coastal odyssey. The islands consist of sand and consequently we usually camp among sparse beach grass with an associated large bathing beach where we live alone.

East of Kalix, everything on the map suddenly gets Finnish names. We are approaching the bilingual Tornedalen. A tornado with thunderstorms and hail, on the mainland an old customs house burns up and some roofs blow off, passes when we visit the peculiar national park Haparanda Sandskär far out in the Gulf of Bothnia.

Finally, we paddle, against the wind, up to and thump our fists in national river no. 59 at the mouth of the Torne river, Sweden's easternmost point on the mainland. And we are faced with the problem of finding some new challenge when we realize that the long journey is actually over.