« Mentor Duluth pairs kids and volunteers | Main | We've moved »

Lake Superior surfers look forward to unsettled weather

By BEN JORGENSON
DCN Correspondent

The average person who watches the weather on the evening news is paying attention to see if they have to wake up a half hour early to warm up their car and shovel the driveway.

Some have another goal in their head as they watch the blue and green radar blob surge through the Midwest. They watch the weather for the prize of finding the perfect wave to surf on our humble lake front shores.

“In the Northern Hemisphere, the fall and winter has more volatile weather which generates a lot more waves,? said Bob Tema, one of the cofounders of Superior Surf Club, which is an organization dedicated to uniting and informing Midwest surfers about weather conditions and events of the Midwest surf community.

This intense winter storm weather makes excellent waves for Midwest surfers. Although these waves are nothing like the swells that slosh onto the shores of Hawaii or California, Duluth surfers are proud of the niche they have created in surfing our fresh water.

What started as a strange novelty for people on the shores watching in awe is now becoming a well known sport among the hardcore outdoorsmen and water sports junkies in the area.

When the conditions are right, you can find surfers in three main areas of Duluth: Park Point, the mouth of the Lester River, and Stoney Point, which holds the title for the best waves in Duluth from the locals. Unfortunately this year it is hard to find surfers in these locations due to the lack of useful weather patterns. Many surfing are calling this season one of the worst in recent memory.

Without the wind blowing in the right direction at the right speed there cannot be surfing on the lake. Because unlike ocean surfing where a constant current is involved, freshwater surfing requires ideal weather conditions and wind patterns.

According to Randy Carlson, the coordinator of the UMD Surf Club and ten-year Duluth surf veteran, says the good surfing weather occurs when “We’ve had a lot of high pressure just parked above us cold northwest wind.?

Carlson teaches UMD students how to kite board, paddleboard, and surf. With the stubborn weather hitting the Midwest, Carlson is finding it difficult to find time and conditions suitable to help teach students.

Carlson said, “Without the waves we can’t use the surfboards.?

Wayne Gatlin a UMD junior has been surfing with Carlson and the UMD Surf Club for three years. Wayne bought equipment this year in hopes of riding waves on his own time without the surf club. He bought his board from a local whose wife was making him sell it on Craig’s List. Gatlin also purchased a wetsuit in hopes of tearing waves.

“I haven’t been out for a month and a half,? said Gatlin. “I haven’t had many seasons, but this is the ones where I have been out the least so far.?

The weather is not just cutting into teaching and fun time. For some, the weather is hurting some who need the weather for sales.

John Abrahms is the owner of Superior Surf Systems, which is a specialty store related to water sports. Abrahms stocks kayaks, canoes, paddles, life jackets, wetsuits and – for a little over a year now – surfboards and surf accessories.

“It’s terrible this fall,? said Abrahms. “If there aren’t waves, no one is standing on the shores looking to buy surfboards.?

“This is supposed to be the peak of the surf season sales,? he added.

With a crumby season underway surfers aren’t hopeless. They still have Minnesota’s unpredictable weather and several more months of winter months ahead, which could yield some serious surfing conditions for locals.

“Who knows maybe will have a killer December or January,? said Wayne Gatlin.