Lake Superior surfing season picks up

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SURFS UP ON LAKE SUPERIOR—Once the height of the waves increase, so will the popularity of surfing on Lake Superior. With fall arriving so fast, winter isn’t far behind. That’s when the surfing weather will be in its prime.

Travis Nelson

As fall and winter draw closer, Lake Superior’s waves are higher and the splashes hit harder. When the waves are huge, expect a group of brave NMU students to be hitting the beach with surfboards in hand.

Lizzy Stark, a junior majoring in environmental studies and sustainability, is on the Women’s Volleyball team but has found another hobby: surfing. Stark just participated in the activity for the first time this past week, but it has been something she’s been wanting to do since she came to NMU.

“I’m a junior now, but my freshman year coming here, I never knew that was a thing that people did,” Stark said. “Or surfing the Great Lakes in general, I didn’t know people did that. When I first saw people (surfing) I was like, oh my gosh, that’s so cool.”

It took some soul searching for Stark to decide to start surfing, and it doesn’t help that the equipment is expensive, she said. But after an encounter with the surfers this past summer, Stark said that she was fully committed.

“This summer, I was out there watching them one day and I was like, you know what? I’m just going to do this. It was literally painful to watch them and not be out there,” Stark said. “I’m so glad that I did, it’s so fun. Even though getting wrecked by waves is intimidating, it’s really fun and I’m excited to go again.”

With a little more experience, senior sports science major Christian Latuszek has been surfing since January, but still feels that same rush that Stark did during her first time.

“The first wave I catch, almost every time I get off of it, no matter what it is, I’m just all smiling ear-to-ear. I feel really joyful, I’ve felt a similar feeling doing other stuff too, but it’s just different,” Latuszek said. “That’s the only wave that is going to be exactly that way, and you were able to ride it. That’s special to me.”

Latuszek said that he has a solid crew between two to four friends that he hits the waves with, and they all get hyped up and support each other when they catch a wave. That only adds to the hysteria of surfing on the big lake.

“When you catch a wave right, there’s probably nothing that beats it. It’s really fun just being on the water and being able to ride this wave that Lake Superior created all the way to the beach,” Latuszek said.

What’s also important to remember for first time surfers is safety, Latuszek said. He suggests going out on a calm day with your board to get the feeling of what it’s like to stay on and paddle. Inexperienced surfers should never go alone, and should avoid big crowds so that nobody’s injured, he added.

“If you’re still a beginner surfer, I still consider myself a beginner, until you get control of your board and ride a wave just stay away from big crowds or other people because you don’t only become a danger to others, but to yourself,” Latuszek said. “Definitely take everything I say with a grain of salt because I’m not an expert by any means, but that’s kind of what I’ve been taught is just to try and be comfortable before you go out in a group of people.”

This is especially important considering the season of Lake Superior surfing is starting to pick up. More and more people will be on the water trying to catch big waves, especially in the winter months. The best waves are during this time with the gales of November, Latuszek said. It’s an unthinkable concept to be out on Lake Superior in freezing temperatures, but not for these surfers.

“A lot of people actually ask that question, people think we’re crazy and maybe we are crazy. I have a five millimeter full wetsuit with a hood, and some of my friends have even thicker wetsuits,” Latuszek said. “The key is to have a wetsuit, a two-liter bottle or something full of hot water to put in your wetsuit before you go out and put vaseline on your face. It (vaseline) might not work, but it makes me feel like it’s helping.”

The blood is flowing during the winter months, Latuszek said, and you could say the same thing for a first time surfer. As for a pitch for students who want to get into surfing? Stark has a pretty good pitch.

“If you’re excited enough about something, just do it, because there’s never a better time to learn and there’s no better people to learn with,” Stark said. “People that are out there are just so nice, and the people of Marquette are just community building people, they just want to build people up. I would say that no there’s no better time to start, so why not do it?”