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Surfing Superior
Friday, August 24, 2007
By Michaeleen O’Sullivan, UPfirst feature writer
Photos by Michaeleen & Todd Carter,
UPfirst staff photographers

Marquette, Michigan—“That’s Mike Horton catchin’ that wave right there,” said local surfing great Dan Schetter.  Dan stopped on the beach for a chat last Friday when I asked him about local legend Horton.

Just off an impressive long run himself, Dan, who works for a local cleaning company, told us:  "I started surfing in Japan about 13 years ago, and I've been surfin' in Marquette for 10 years."

Dan and Mike Horton will usually be found during any wild day of Lake Superior riding at Presque Isle's prize surfing turf, The Zoo. 

Dan Schetter of Marquette after an impressive ride at 'The Zoo'

Dan and Mike dazzled a crowd of floating boarders and spectators last Friday.  Dan said both he and Horton enjoy a lot of time defending their home turf at The Zoo.

"Do you know Dan's nickname?" asked Mike Horton over the phone yesterday. "We call him 'Hard-Core Dan,' because he surfs well into October without a wet suit."

Mike also told me he and Dan, along with others, helped save two women caught in a dangerous rip current while surfing The Zoo last week.

'Hard-Core Dan' Schetter -- without a wetsuit! -- paddling back out for another ride
Mike Horton in background

Last Friday’s high winds produced great surf action, from The Zoo at Presque Isle—site of the defunct Zoo where everyone seems to remember the poor pacing cougar—to the breaking waves along M-28.

My surf husband, Todd, started his day with a web check for waves, looking for news of three feet or more, at Marine Forecast: Weather Underground.

He reads aloud: "Waves: 4 to 6 feet.  Surf's up!"

Then buddy Jose confirms:  “Just callin’ with a wave report.  I see whitecaps!”

Todd waxes his board, lifts it into the truck, and we take off on a wave chase.  Our first stop at Michigan's Visitor’s Center beach on US-41 slams winds so strong I duck behind trees at the ridge of the beach to stay warm.  Todd walks the beach a bit sizing up the waves.  He says the waves aren't big enough, and we don't see any surfers, so we move on to M-28.

Out at the 1st M-28 turnout, we still don't spot surfers, but the northwesterly winds and crashing 4- to 6-foot waves look good to Todd.  So he lifts his new “Blue”-brand surfboard from the back of the truck and heads for the water.  Todd’s new Lake Superior long board, combined with a little practice, results in some exciting action.

UPfirst Owner Todd Carter hanging onto a wave at M-28 location

Ohhw!  Now the wave's hangin' onto Todd

Within an hour, three guys show up and start riding the waves.   We later learn these three—Matt Jones, Ben Johnson, and Andy Jones—are integral to the local surfing scene.

With Todd out of the water now, we admire the M-28 action until the winds drive us into the truck.

Matt Jones, Ben Johnson, and Andy Jones
at the 1st M-28 turnout

Next we head to The Zoo on Presque Isle.  Todd, still in his wetsuit, wraps up in a towel.  We stand on the beach taking pictures and watching the show.  Dan Schetter zigzags with mighty balance over at least six waves and then glides home to a smooth beach landing.  Five surfers floating or paddling their boards in the shallow waters are learning the sport while staying out of the way of The Zoo's Big Kahunas, Horton and Schetter.  More surfers and local familiars gather onshore at The Zoo chatting and watching the action.  Surfboards and muscle guys in wetsuits are everywhere.

'Hard-Core Dan' layin' back on a long run at 'The Zoo'

Todd bought his first surfboard in Florida.  His short board from Pensacola forms a blade at the top rather than the round shape of his new Lake Superior long board.  The short board wasn’t cuttin’ it in Lake Superior chop.

So where do you find a surfboard in Marquette on the shores of Michigan's Lake Superior?

Dan, who agreed: “You need a long board for surfing here,” bought his long board online, but he said lots of his friends and especially new surfers buy their boards at Casualties Skate and Snow on Third Street in Marquette.

Casualties Skate and Snow at 503 North Third Street in Marquette

Todd scored his new surfboard at Casualties back in April, after spotting a curious sign in front of the store: “Surfboards for Sale.”

A few minutes later, Todd carried out the first surfboard sold at Casualties.  In their 8th year of business, Casualties had just started stocking surfboards for the first time ever the previous week. 

Today, four months later, Salesman Mike Forester said Casualties' new surfboard line is a Midwest innovation, and sales have been strong.  New surfboards at Casualties range in price from $350 to $650, with most popular models between $390 and $475.  Wet suits, gloves, and booties complement the board line. 

Popular, too, according to Co-Owner Andy Jones, is Casualties' surfboard rental program.  Casualties will rent out a surfboard for $25 a day and a wetsuit for $15 per day.  A value-added bonus is that rental monies can be later applied to board and suit purchases.

"This way," Jones explained, "anyone can try a day of surfing without having to buy the equipment until they're ready."

During our visit to Casualties, the M-28 surfers identified themselves from our pictures as brothers Matt and Andy Jones, Co-Owners of Casualties, and their friend Ben Johnson.  Andy Jones told me they all learned to surf after he and brother Matt expanded into surfboard sales in April.

Andy confirmed local surf territories include: "The Zoo, M-28, and wherever there's waves!!"

Surfing in Marquette isn’t this wild every day.  But if you feel the northwesterly winds and see whitecaps on the Big Lake—from The Zoo at Presque Isle to the emerald waves along M-28—look for surfers catchin' some wild UP live rides!

Current selection of surfboards at Casualties Skate and Snow

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