Friday, January 30, 2009

Surfin' Gitchee Gumee

I don't really see any new Beach Boys tunes arising from the practice, but apparently there are lots of folks riding the waves on Lake Superior. Superior Outdoors, a fabulous publication published in Thunder Bay, ON had a great story and photo spread this summer and I got a tip from BDahlieOf Mahtomedi that the local paper reprinted a New York Times travel article last Sunday.

The Renegades went out and skied last night and the temp was about 15F (-9C), very nice in wool clothing but I can't imagine how miserable it would be in a wetsuit. Yet that's the routine for these guys, who have a website up to chronicle their activities. The biggest waves on Superior occur in the winter, the classic November storms like the one that sank the Edmund Fitzgerald, and I guess if you want the big waves you have to pay the price. A price I would refuse to pay, by the way. I was fishing off the mouth of Wisconsin's famous Brule River in my kayak in April with TheCommish a couple years ago in April. I stowed my fishing gear on the deck and surfed into shore in my Aquanaut. It was so much fun that I paddled out and did it again. And again. The fourth time I broached, dumped, and got to find out just exactly how a wetsuit works. The concept is that the thin layer of water between you and the neoprene is warmed by your body heat and the insulation from the neoprene keeps you warm. The problem intially however, is that that layer of water thats flooding into the wetsuit (and dousing sensitive bodily parts) is about 39F (4C). There is most definitely shrinkage and I picked up a drysuit at Midwest Mountaineerings Expo the very next week.

I've seen these guys surfing at the mouth of the Lester River on the outskirts of Duluth. When the wind is from a southerly direction, especially the rare southeast wind, the current from the Lester with the wind and waves against it, makes for some big, steep, breaking waves. It is most definitely NOT a sand beach there however, and I would think a helmet would be required gear as well. The folks surfing all had thick wetsuits with gloves and hoods, and had a van running with the heater on to warm up. The guys up in Thunder Bay do that one better by erecting a portable sauna to warm up in. Now suddenly this cold water surfing thing is sounding more palatable to me but I still don't think I'll be donning the wetsuit any time soon. Nope, I'll stick to paddling from April to October, a bit of hunting in October/November, and then skiing from December to April. As you can see from the photo, its hard to avoid a bit of seasonal overlap, but for the most part I love the change of seasons and do my best to 'keep em straight' with different outdoor activities.

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