Why I love surfing

surfer-wetsuitSelf portrait from Easky, Ireland in october 2012.

More than 20 years ago my good friend Mathias Wiberg asked me if I wanted to tag along to Easky, Ireland and learn how to surf. I was in the middle of my snowboard career and surfing felt like something I really wanted to learn how to do so I of course said yes. We drove there in Mathias funky SAAB together with two other guys and after almost 24 hours of driving through Sweden, England and Ireland we ended up in this little village with nothing but bars where the farmers got their daily Guinness and a world class break to match that scene.

There and then I learned how to surf. I consider myself a fast learner but still it took 7 days of paddling and falling before I got my first real wave. I’m not talking one of those mushy beach breaks, but a solid 6-foot wave that made love to me in a way so that I would never ever forget the feeling of riding a wave. Back then I was snowboarding for the swedish national team which made it possible for me to spend quite a lot of time during the summers on my surfboard. Then years later when an injury stopped my snowboarding career friends asked me “Aren’t you sad to have to stop snowboarding” and my answers was, and has always been “No, but I’m sad I can’t go on surfing as much as I did back then”.

Today when I talk to people and tell them I surf I’m always asked how it feels. So, let me tell you all why I love surfing.

This is why I love surfing.

Surfing is not a sport. Surfing is a god-like experience…and I don’t even believe in god. Surfing is like nothing else in the world. I’ve had the privilege to surf in Indonesia, Costa Rica, England, France, Bahamas, Ireland, Norway and even Sweden and the experience is always the same – it brings you closer to nature than anything else. No matter if the water is +30° like in Costa Rica or +6° like in Sweden, when you paddle out there in nothing but your board and boardshorts or wetsuit you feel a flow of energy entering your body.

waves-rollingThe ‘machines’ are rolling in over the Easky Left reef in Ireland. It was a great day!

Then on your way out when you paddle up the faces of 8-foot waves trying to stop you from getting out there your adrenaline starts pumping. A light off shore wind makes the tip of the waves throw water backwards, sometimes rainstorms. You keep on paddling even though your arms are starting to feel pain. And finally you reach the line up. Sitting, waiting, maybe having a chat with another surfing out there but once the waves line up you enter a meditative mode. Your thoughts focus on one thing – getting that wave.

easky-kilkumminOne of Irelands finest waves, Kilcummin, lining up a solid 6 footer. Me waiting to get on it.

A wall builds up. Imagine a freight-train coming at you sideways while you’re lying on the ground on a surfboard. The height of that freight-train would be the face of a 6-8 foot wave. You start to paddle. Everything you got! Paddle hard. The wall now lifts the water under you and your board catches speed. Not yet, not yet! Paddle harder! Suddenly you’ve got enough speed to catch that wave.

ronnestam-baliThe first picture taken of me surfing. This time in Uluwatu, Bali. A solid tube that scared the hell out of me!

You now have about a second to stand up before you either crash down the wave or miss it. Hands around the board, pull your knee in under your stomach while your board is almost vertically positioned down the wave and jump up on the board. Your back foot hits the board first and then your front foot. Speed. You are surfing. Here is where the magic occurs, this is the moment I live for when I’m surfing, this is where nature closes its hands around you and for a moment you feel nothing but love for this world.

easky-rightThe Easky Right lining up a nice face.

When you catch a good sized wave you can do nothing but ride with it. There is now other sport like it. In every other sport you can break, pull back, say no, take an easier path. If I ski for example and I’m about to jump a cliff I can always change my mind to the very last second. In surfing the only thing you can do is to ride the wave and try to be one with nature.

ronnestam-surfingMe trying to spray some water in Easky, Ireland.

As drop down the wave you have about a second to pull in to the wave and ride down the line. Constantly you have to adapt to the shape of the wave. You have to ride it out, can’t pull back cause you don’t want to end up in the falls. While you’re riding that freight-train you move around the board to get more speed, change direction, get more edge while you do a cut back or break the speed to back into a tube. The wave ends and you turn hard to cross over the last part of the wave and find yourself flying in the air with the leash and the board following you. As you land in the water you go from thunder and lightning to tranquility. Everything turns calm and your pulse slowly slows down. You paddle in the opposite direction of the wave to escape the next face and maybe the next surfer. You have surfed a wave and you can’t wait to catch a new one.

toro-sunsetA group of surfers waiting to paddle out in the 10° water on Torö in Sweden. You see what I mean?

Surfing is something I love to do. It’s something I hope I’ll still be able to do when I turn ninety years old. If I could only do one thing in life I’d pick surfing. Surfing is the essence of our time here on earth.

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Curiosity. My greatest asset. Born 1971 and Raised in the suburbs of style city Stockholm, creativity was always a part of growing up. With a background as a former snowboard professional (with among others Greger Hagelin from WE and Per Holknekt from Odd Molly as sponsors) and one of the few in the world who nailed a 1440° spin, I started my career on the buyer side. Marketing exclusive golf brands such as Mizuno, King Cobra and Goldwin gave me insight into the demands of advertisers and consumers but foremost the complexity behind how products actually make it into the stores. Always full of ideas, I felt I needed to move on to the creative side of the business. Internet, on the rise in Sweden drew me into the digital revolution already in 1994. In 1998 however I joined Framfab, one of the late 90’s fast-moving companies. As a concept developer and key account manager I parted in creating award winning projects for clients like Vattenfall , Bredbandsbolaget, Nike Europe and Volvo Cars. I also held a position within Framfab Innovation. The incubator of new ideas within Framfab. After Framfab had grown in just two years from 130 employees to 3400, I felt I needed to move to a smaller organization. Abel & Baker - in 2001 the worlds most awarded digital advertising company attracted me. At A&B I tool part in winning the global account for adidas, but I also worked with MTV, Nokia, Toyota, Årets Kock, ICA and the Red Cross. In 2002 I left Abel & Baker to found something of my own - Foreign. Foreign - an ideas creator with focus on the communication of tomorrow - based in Stockholm, Sweden. Foreign quickly grew to 27 employees and was awarded in the Cannes Lions, D&AD, New York Festivals, London International Advertising Awards, Epica, Clio, Cresta and other award shows every year since start up. Foreign launched both digital and integrated global campaigns for BMW Motorrad, MTV, H&M, IKEA, Omega, Beckers, Com Hem, Intersport, Kosta Boda, adidas International and many more. In September 2008 I took the decision to close Foreign down after almost 7 years. I’m now consulting within the same business on my own. Apart from Foreign I’ve also founded WhiskyGrotto.com and Co-Founded PremierGoals.com. Thru the years, leadership and success has been important, but enjoying life, loyalty and sincerity is what drives me further. I consider my part in motivating adidas to let fairly small Foreign handle adidas global digital World Cup campaigns my proudest moment in business. The birth of my two daughters Ebba & Linn is my proudest moment in life.