Mathias Rosendal founded OH DAWN to shape boards perfect for his home break on Denmark’s North Shore.

In 2013, we headed out to Copenhagen's CPH Pro to put together this alternative city guide on the city's thriving creative community.

First up, Mathias Rosendal founded OH DAWN to shape boards perfect for his home break on Denmark’s North Shore.

Sandwiched between Christiania and Amager on the site of an old chemical plant is something a little unexpected: a gated studio community, boasting a sauna in a caravan, a small rig for gigs, a café in a shipping container and another one filled with motorbikes. It’s quintessentially Copenhagen – a bunch of totally random and unrelated things that somehow make sense. It’s also the home of OH DAWN, a local surf brand founded by brothers Simon and Mathias Rosendal and friend Bo Gundtoft.

Copenhagen may not loom large on surfing’s world map, but that’s kind of the whole point. OH DAWN was born out of geographical constraints; a group of people who found something they loved to do, even though the ideology seemed pigeonholed in places like California, Hawaii or Australia.

“When we started surfing we were like, ‘Okay, we are surfers but we can’t relate to most surf brands.’ And when we thought about surfers we were like, ‘That’s not us,’” explains Mathias. “So we wanted to do our own thing, to be part of a local community and what we felt represented our way of surfing.”

OH DAWN

The idea of golden dudes surfing in neon shorts doesn’t feel relevant at the crew’s home break on Denmark’s North Shore. It’s wetsuit territory, regardless of the season, and in winter the guys can find themselves surfing in tidal slush. ‘Muddy Waters’ is a popular tee slogan for good reason.

At first, OH DAWN was a necessity. With few good surf shops in town, the guys started building and re-shaping boards around seven years ago to get the perfect ride. On a whim, they put together an exhibition to show some boards and photographs to friends, but to Mathias’ surprise, people actually bought their wares. “We thought that was pretty cool because we like doing this,” he explains. “We took the money we earned and made some more stuff. It’s been slow but evolving, nice and easy.”

OH DAWN

In 2011, OH DAWN entered the clothing game when they released a range of T-shirts. But their ethos hasn’t changed. They still do everything themselves – shaping and hand-painting surf and skateboards, designing tees, upcycling old surfboards into nifty hand-planes – all the while holding down day-jobs, which relieves the pressure to ‘sell, sell, sell’ and keeps the pace laidback.

So, what is it about Copenhagen that breeds this easy vibe?

“I guess that it’s a big city, but also really small. You have everything here, but tight together. You know people and you can get out of here easily.” This is also true for surfing, as Mathias explains, with the closest spot just a short drive or train journey from the city. “Sure, it all adds up. You have the journey, then you’re maybe in the water for three hours and then hanging on the beach – it takes up at least half a day. But it’s really nice that you can get out surfing in half an hour and then be back in the city.”

OH DAWN

Copenhagen has shaped OH DAWN, drawing in both geographical and aesthetic influences that are a refreshing break from surf stereotypes.

“Copenhagen has this heritage of Scandinavian design and the whole environment kind of forms the OH DAWN style,” says Mathias. “I guess we just combined that with the surf scene, because that’s our interest. But we live here, so it was pretty natural for us to mix those two.”

OH DAWN

Local Lowdown: swim, riot and eat good food with OH DAWN’s post-surf hang-out guide.

Ravnsborggade Skatepark. This place has a mix of skating and outdoor film screenings going on. It’s great for hanging out throughout the summer.

Nordhavn. This old industrial area is a great place for swimming and boasts diving spots from old cranes.

Youth House/ Ungdomshuset. This was a disused building on Jagtev in Nørrebro that turned into a party house. It was eventually demolished in 2007. People rioted in the streets for days.

Wascator. This café offers great food for great prices in the city, and of course a really good atmosphere. Route66,

Vinyl Store. It seems every time I discover a cool new band, these guys are already stocking their LPs.

For more on OH DAWN, check out their website.  

This article originally appeared in Huck 40 as part of Levi’s Presents: Rad Copenhagen! An Alternative City Guide.

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