Cold water doesn't deter Superior's avid surfers

By Molly Brown

Surfing in Duluth may seem like an oxymoron, but for a group of avid followers, the frigid waters of Lake Superior are as good as it gets for action sports.

"Early fall is the best time to go out while it's still warm. I suppose 50 degrees doesn't seem warm, but compared to 30 degrees it sure does," said Randy Carlson, Surfing and Stand-up Paddle Boarding instructor for the Recreation Sports and Outdoor Programs at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD).

Carlson is no rookie to action sports. He has been coordinating whitewater instruction at UMD for 20 years.

"An extension of that is chasing down the surf waves on Lake Superior," he said. Carlson leads a group of about a dozen students in learning the basics, as well as more advanced surfing techniques. Pool training, balance drills, and core-strength workouts at the Sports and Health Center offer the fundamental skills needed for zipping up the wetsuit and hitting the waves with confidence.

So, how does one become involved is such an exciting endeavor?

"Joining our surf membership is all you need to do," Carlson said. Carlson also leads annual trips to Southern California for students who want to try warm water surfing.

"It's great to surf when it's sunny and for seven days in a row, whereas here in Duluth we have to chase the storms to find the right conditions,” Carlson said.Jennifer Busman, a UMD senior, was one of the participants of this travel experience.

"It was amazing. It's such an adrenaline rush being out on the water. You just feel like you are part of the environment," Busman said.Busman started informally teaching kayaking in the RSOP at UMD her sophomore year.

"I loved it so much I became certified to teach it this past summer," she said. Lester River, Park Point, and Island Lake are hot spots for local surfing. Once the dedicated group of surfers are ready, Lake Superior is where most practice standing up on a surf or paddle board, following the wake of a ski boat.

When the snow starts to fly, many surfers transition to snow kiting.

A kite on the snow-covered lake pulls a snowboard or alpine skis.

"This is a related action sport. Some really have the adventurous spirit to pull off both sports," Carlson said. "Once the surf bites you, you are in it for the long haul."

He anticipates even more interest in the coming year for curious thrill-seekers looking for a challenging, but fun workout.

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