Great Lakes surfers pay no mind to frigid temps

CP goes to Duluth to see what kind of brave souls partake of winter boarding

Once, Stabinger was at a ski resort in Colorado when after a few morning runs he went back to his slopeside condo for a break and turned on the weather channel. "I shouldn't have done it," he recalls ruefully. In front of him the weatherman pointed out a swirling low-pressure system heading directly south of Lake Superior. By next morning, Stoney Point would be firing.

As he left his condo and returned to the chairlift, his thoughts turned to surfing. "I figured that I could ride up the chairlift, head right back down the hill, grab my bag, and catch a van to the airport. Then I could try to catch a flight back home on standby, taxi it back to my house, pick up my car in the early morning, and drive up to Duluth just in time for the last few waves of the day."

The reality of his addiction struck him in the face. "Here I was, slopeside in Colorado with a Jacuzzi in my condo, and all I'm thinking about is how I can return home so I can go jump into a 30-degree lake."

Would Gidget paddle out in sub-freezing weather? Here, Quinn Carmichael drops in on the north shore of Lake Superior.
Bob Tema
Would Gidget paddle out in sub-freezing weather? Here, Quinn Carmichael drops in on the north shore of Lake Superior.
Greg Isaacson first paddled out on a Coleman camping pad when he was twelve. Forty years later, he's the local legend of the Superior surf community.
Emily Kaiser
Greg Isaacson first paddled out on a Coleman camping pad when he was twelve. Forty years later, he's the local legend of the Superior surf community.

After several more beers, the guys start to tell tales about various waves as though they were memorable relationships. But a simple question tosses them: Why? Why would a person drive through the snow for two and a half hours to jump in a lake that's on the cusp of freezing?

Tema pauses, looks up, looks back down, smiles wide, and says, "Every day I go out it feels like an expedition. And I get to know that some days, in some different spots, I'm the very first person ever to surf these waves. It's a special feeling. And you can combine that with the very few days a year you get to do it. So it makes it more...meaningful."

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