Surfs Up!

NMU student cold water surfs


Fischer Genau/NW

WINTER WAVES – Surfers catch the huge winter waves before the shore freezes over.

Nathan Kwapisz

Remy Emelian, an environmental studies and sustainability major, first encountered surfing when he was down in Florida. Emelian saw a peer enjoying the “stoke,” surfing slang for fun, of surfing and wanted to learn the outdoor pastime. Emelian picked up surfing during his one-week trip but thought had to stop once he got to Northern, until he saw surfers in Lake Superior.

Emelian realized he had the chance to actually continue to learn how to surf in the freezing cold water of Lake Superior if he just talked to the community of surfers. 

“Originally just seeing people up here already got me into it,” Emelian said. “Then just meeting the community up here that does it, and then allowing me to get into it and feel comfortable.”

What actually gave Emelian the ability to learn was the excellent surfing community to learn from in the U.P.

“I think it’s a lot different than some of the stuff I’ve done in the past. So, just going out, doing regular sports, just being part of a team and kind of always being involved,” Emelian said. “When you’re out on the water, it changes.”

Emelian described surfing as different from any sports he has done in the past. 

“You’re kind of disconnected for a minute, and then you also share that stoke with other surfers out there and just enjoy every moment, even if there’s no good waves,” Emelian said.

Emelian said that you are sharing your flow state with the family of surfers while you’re out on the water, no matter the state of nature.

“Whenever the conditions fall into place, without knowing it and you just show up, look out there and it’s just happening,” Emelian said. “That’s when you just get all your stuff and run out there, ask some friends if they’re down. Just unexpected days like that.”

His favorite moments in surfing are the unexpected days where everything just falls into place, and you can enjoy nature. 

“When you’re out there, you’re really present, you’re not thinking about homework due later tonight or stuff you’ve got going on later in the day. It clears your mind, and you’re just present in trying to find a wave that you can paddle into,” Emelian said.

He described finding a wave as an activity that locks you in a meditative state. 

Getting involved in the community and helping it,” Emelian said. “Get a new board in the future, change the length of the board so I can ride different waves, and then just try to go out as much as possible.”

Emelian’s next steps in his surfing journey include him getting more involved with the surfing community and just getting out as much as he can in the coming seasons. 

“Freshwater makes you want to protect that so, at the same time, I feel like it’s good to just get other people kind of out there so they can feel the same way and want to protect it, and they share it with someone else as well,” Emelian said.

His sustainability mindset enjoys the fact that with surfing in Lake Superior, it connects you with the environment and motivates you to preserve the water you use on a daily basis. 

“Don’t be afraid of just trying it out, just that one experience can get you hooked right away, which is something that happened for me.”