It was around 8 pm on a Wednesday evening in November and my phone started to buzz. I was working retail at the time, the store was empty and we were about to close, so I ran to the fitting room and answered the call. As I pulled my phone out of my pocket, the luminous screen read “Mathias Surf” and instantly my adrenaline started to pump. You see… almost every time “Mathias Surf” gives me a call, it’s to let me know that the winds have remained East by North East between 15 to 21 knots and the Northern Shores of Minnesota are going to see some epic surf. Which for me, means there’s a photo to be made.
The next morning, I packed my gear into the ’97 Wrangler and headed toward the lake. After a quick 20 minute drive up the shore, I finally arrived at the spot (which will remain undisclosed, simply for the fact that to know about it, you have to find and experience it). To describe the scene, one might say it was something along the lines of hectic. The snow was beginning to fall, the waves were firing and the water was filled with surfers from miles around. Some of the surfers were running to and from their vehicles dodging in and out of a few curious bystanders. All the while, the constant sound of the waves crashing added a calming symphonic sound to the chaotic scene.
In the late 1950s, it’s said that a man by the name of Doc Siebold was the first person to start surfing on Lake Superior in Northern Michigan (or at least, that’s the group consensus). Since then, the trend has started to travel east and west along the shore lines of the great lakes. Eventually it made its way to the Land of 10,000 Lakes and over the last few years, the scene here has taken off.
Some of the surfers were running to and from their vehicles dodging in and out of a few curious bystanders. All the while, the constant sound of the waves crashing added a calming symphonic sound to the chaotic scene.
As the day went on and the memory cards filled up, some of the surfers began to take a break to warm their hands and feet, I finally got a chance to catch up with a few friends. Mathias, Jared and Dan all explained me how special of a day this Thursday in November really was. They told me this specific surf spot only produces ridable waves maybe two times a year because it takes an unusually consistent combination of weather patterns including the crucial ENE gust to bring these waves all the way to shore.
What makes surfing on the Big Lake so unique is the fact that the peak season is between December and March and its not uncommon for the water to be warmer than the air, but only by a few degrees. It’s not often anyone pairs surfing with falling snow, iced over beards, 5-4mm wetsuits and rocky lake shorelines but when it comes to this crew, it’s the first things that come to mind. If you’re ever curious enough to meet one of these people…take a drive up the North Shore of Minnesota when the winds are strong and they hail from the East by North East.
Have you ever tried surfing in Lake Superior? In Minnesota?
How was your experience? Comment below!
Up next: Surfing the Great Lakes with Surf the Greats