Having fun on the water in Finland

People in Finland love spending time outdoors. Finland’s 188,000 lakes, hundreds of rivers and long coastline offer plenty of opportunities to enjoy nature. The Finnish Lake District is the largest such area in Europe.

Here are some of the water activities you can experience in Finland – a few of them are even winter hobbies.

Swimming: Jump in!

Photo: iStock

There are plenty of natural bodies of water in Finland suitable for swimming, both lakes and sea. During the summer in southern Finland, lake water temperature is usually around 20 degree Celsius (68 Fahrenheit). Take a dip in the beautiful calmness of northern nature.

Fishing and ice fishing: Catch some fish

Photo: Asko Kuittinen/Visit Finland

Almost a third of Finnish people list fishing as one of their hobbies, and there are plenty of options available for fishing tourists. You can take the fishing trip of a lifetime to the far-northern fly-fishing paradise in Finnish Lapland to catch salmon in the rivers. Or how about heading to the Lake District in eastern Finland for pike, perch and pikeperch? If you are staying in Helsinki, take a look at the opportunities along the coast. In winter, try ice fishing through a small hole in the ice while the sun glitters on the snow, and you will never forget the experience. Fishing permits are available online.

Canoeing and kayaking: Calm down or speed up

Photo: iStock

Enjoy the tranquillity of the lakes, explore the islands of the archipelago or challenge yourself with white water rafting in the rivers. Immerse yourself in the silence on the wilderness lake or ask for guided river-rafting excursions. No permit is required, but it is essential to have appropriate clothing, life jacket, a map and a compass.

Sailboats, motorboats & rowboats: Take a boat trip

Photo: Juha Valkeajoki/Visit Helsinki

Finland is a great boating destination, whether you like sailing, motorboating or rowing. You can rent a boat with or without a captain in many lakeside and coastal towns. You can row on the lakes, rivers and sea, and there are plenty of scenic routes to take. Whichever boat you choose, you can explore water routes or go island hopping, and there are inviting guest harbours along the way, too.

Wakeboarding: Perform tricks on the waves

Photo: Ville Pääkkönen

Finnish coastlines and lakes provide plenty of fun for wakeboarders. You can find rental equipment in many towns across the country.

The more ecological version of the sport, cable wakeboarding, is growing. No boat is needed: the riders are connected to a cable system that pulls them around the area. The more seasoned riders can try their tricks on tracks that resemble skateparks, with ramps and obstacles. Wakepark Vuokatti has one of Finland’s longest zipline wakeboard tracks, 280 metres long.

Diving: Into the deep

Photo: Mika Saareila

The archipelago of the Baltic Sea is stunningly beautiful and its many islands give great opportunities for diving. For long, deep dives, you need a full regalia of wet suit with hood, socks and gloves. Many divers also enjoy diving in lakes that have clear waters and great visibility. Contact local diving clubs or the Finnish Divers’ Federation.

Standup paddleboarding: Walk on water

Photo: Jussi Hellsten/Visit Helsinki

Standup paddleboarding may be the closest you will ever come to walking on water. Lakes, rivers and the archipelago are all suited to this hobby. You can rent SUP boards and paddles in many towns, and enjoy city views from new angles.

Outdoor ice hockey: Fast-paced action, #SavePondHockey

Photo: Marko Seuranen

In Finland, there are hundreds of outdoor ice hockey rinks where children learn to play and adults keep up their skills. You can join them and experience playing this fast and exciting sport outdoors. The organisation and movement Save Pond Hockey was established in Finland and is uniting the global hockey community against climate change. The profits from Save Pond Hockey tournaments go to projects that are tackling the climate crisis.

Ice swimming: Dip yourself in icy water

Photo: Aku Pöllänen/Visit Finland

Finnish lakes and the Baltic Sea usually freeze during the winter, depending on weather conditions. Ice swimmers enter the icy water (about 3 degrees Celsius, or 37 Fahrenheit) through a hole in the ice, usually a couple of metres in diameter. Most swimmers spend less than a minute in the water before they head to the sauna. All you need is a swimsuit, a towel, a beanie and a lot of courage. Afterwards, you feel super-relaxed and a bit euphoric. Finland’s first official ice swimming club was founded in 1924 in Helsinki, and ice swimming remains a popular hobby among people of all ages. The clubs make sure that the hole in the ice stays open and the sauna is heated.

Winter surfing: Let the wind be your motor

Photo: iStock

How about wind surfing on an ice surface? No waves, just gliding on solid ice across a lake or the sea. Winter surfing (or ice surfing) is done with a sail and skis, a ski sled or a skate sled. You can book a course and rent the equipment. All you need to bring with you is very warm clothing. What a lovely way to spend several hours on the ice, travelling with the wind.

By Päivi Brink, ThisisFINLAND Magazine 2023