Riding the waves in Suomenlinna
Two surfers from Australia and New Zealand braved the cold of the sea off Helsinki
By Sami Soininen
Gold-coloured sand, magnificent swells, and bikini-clad girls were not what awaited Rumon Champan of New Zealand and Mark Lee from Australia on the southern tip of the fortress island of Suomenlinna off the tip of the Helsinki Peninsula on Friday.
The two faced water temperatures of less than six degrees Celsius, uninspiring waves, and cold rain - surfing Suomenlinna!
Surfing in Helsinki in late November is a rather strange idea. However, there is a logical explanation.
"Rumon has his birthday on Thursday. We came here to Suomenlinna for a couple of beers and noticed that the surf is very good at Kustaanmiekka, so we decided to come again". Lee said.
The conditions were not great on Friday. The waves were low and the wind was coming from the wrong direction. Chapman had taken his surfboard by bus and ferry to Suomenlinna, so turning back was not an option.
"People looked at us funny. We simply could not have stayed out of the sea, now that we had come with our boards", Lee noted.
Chapman has experience of cold water, as the temperature in Christchurch, New Zealand, can go down to eight degrees in the winter. But surfing is quite different there.
"At home I would never have thought of going to a place like that. It would have been ridiculous", Chapman noted.
He managed to briefly ride three waves.
For Lee, who hails from north of Sydney, cold water was a new acquaintance. The coldest sea he has ever experienced was 18 degrees.
Courageously, Lee pulled on his wet suit in the shelter of the walls of the fortification. Then he stepped into the chilly sea with his board.
After splashing around for more than 20 minutes, Lee managed to ride a wave for a few seconds.
"It was terrible. I lost all the feeling in my fingers", he said when he got out of the water.
With a good pair of wet suit gloves, he would have been able to surf for an hour. "I was only cold in my hands", he said.
The two friends who live in Finland plan to acquire good gloves, because they want to keep surfing. Chapman and Lee plan to return to the spot on Monday, when they hope to find better waves.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 25.11.2006
SAMI SOININEN / Helsingin Sanomat