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Surf's Up on America’s Third Coast

December 12, 2016

For many, a winter blizzard usually involves hunkering down, bundling up, and staying close to home . . . 

However, for a select group of thrill-seeking adventurers, a winter storm becomes an unique opportunity to ride some of the finest waves on Lake Superior. Kyle Wilson (‘09) has been surfing the “Third Coast” for years and was recently caught on film riding an early winter swell near Brighton Beach in Duluth. Click here to discover how this Bulldog found his way into the water!

Growing up in Northwestern Wisconsin, Kyle Wilson (‘09) enjoys the outdoors . . .  biking, kiting, wakeboarding, and longboarding. His decision to attend UMD was largely influenced by his passion to experience outdoor recreation unique to the area - mainly surfing.

Kyle was first exposed to fresh water surfing through a family friend who offered to teach him. “I probably only caught a couple waves that first time and pretty much froze,” he said. “I’ve always been interested in the sport, though.”

The idea of jumping into a freezing lake to catch a quick wave sounds a little extreme to your average northerner, but Kyle explains that having the correct gear makes for a very “comfortable” experience. “With the right wetsuit, it’s possible to surf year-round.” He currently surfs with a 6/5/4 wetsuit which means it has sections that are 6mm, 5mm, and 4mm for thickness. Other equipment necessary for winter surfing includes 7mm gloves and booties. “The gloves and booties are important, but can make it more difficult to feel your board,” mentioned Kyle.

People travel from all over to spend a minute or two standing on a wave. “It’s definitely addicting and has a fun little subculture. There’s a wide range of people that surf on the Great Lakes, but everyone is friendly and just looking to have a good time,” he said.

If you’re interested in seeing surfers on your next trip to Duluth, Kyle suggests visiting a variety of sites along the shore. “There are a few well-known breaks close to Duluth. Park Point is by far the best for beginners, Lester River is more intermediate, and Stoney Point is for the seasoned and experienced riders.” Kyle also noted that Stoney Point is a very well-known point break and can get crowded on good days.

While attending UMD, Kyle’s favorite memory was walking back to the dorms in his wetsuit after surf sessions. “Sometimes there would still be icicles hanging from my suit,” he laughed.

Kyle is currently on track to graduate this December with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and is looking to launch a career in product design. Wherever his journey takes him, you can bet that Kyle will be storming the waters one wave at a time!