When the fall season comes around, NMU skiers and snowboarders realize that the winter months are closing in fast, and the anticipation begins.
But, for an increasingly larger amount of local skiers and snowboarders, the fall season also means that it’s time to surf Lake Superior.
Tuesday night, 40 NMU students and community members did just that, when they headed to Sunset Point on Presque Isle, manned with surfboards and wetsuits, for an event co-sponsored by the NMU Skate and Snowboard club and Casualties.
“The idea today is just to give people the opportunity to learn about Lake Superior surfing,” Casualties co-owner Andy Jones said. “A lot of people don’t realize the opportunities that we have, especially this time of the year.”
Jones explained that when the winds shift to the North during the fall, the waves on Lake Superior can get pretty big in certain places, and that Presque Isle, is one of those spots. He added that, given the right equipment, the chilly Lake Superior waters aren’t a problem.
“We just wanted to give everyone a chance to use the equipment, to get comfortable with the wet suits, and show people that the water is in fact warm when you’ve got a good wet suit on,” Jones said.
With calm winds and a warm night, Tuesday night’s event allowed beginners to get on a board and not have to worry about being thrashed by big waves – and, for an extra perk, everyone at the event had a U.P. sunset in the background. Jones said that, during the event, nearly three dozen people got on surfboards for the first time.
“We’re hoping to see it grow,” Jones said. “Casualties has had a lot of influence over the snowboarding community over the last eight years, and we’re kind of building on that group of people as potential surfers.”
NMU Skate and Snowboard Club President Eric Schleicher said that, to put on events like this the student group needed the help of Casualties, and added that Casualties has been more than helpful.
“Casualties helps us out a lot – they’re like, ‘your club members are our club members,'” Schleicher, a senior in digital cinema, said. “They help us out with all these things. They’re real good to our club members.”
This is the second year that the Ski and Snowboard club has been involved with surfing, and Schleicher said there’s been a good response from students.
“Everyone’s just really stoked on it,” he said. “I’ve gotten out a few times and it’s a lot of fun.
“It’s something you wouldn’t expect up here, but it’s definitely worth it,” he added. “I came here to snowboard, but I got a lot more.”
One NMU student, Justin Penny, a senior majoring in business management, said, since he’s gotten into surfing while attending Northern, he plans on moving to the West Coast once he graduates to continue the sport.
“It really helps to have surfing available to help hone your skills a little bit while you’re up here,” Penny said.
Surfing is a seasonal sport, according to Jones, but Lake Superior can be surfed when the water as cold as 36 degrees, as well, given the proper equipment – something Jones and his Casualties employees have done.
Said Jones: “Hopefully the next time the waves are up and they’re familiar with their wetsuits, they’re familiar with the equipment, they can get out there and try to catch some waves and get hooked – just like we did.”
If students are interested in Lake Superior surfing, they can be put on a call list by e-mailing the NMU Skate and Snow club at [email protected]