Sheboygan known as the Midwestern Malibu for surfing on Lake Michigan
SHEBOYGAN – Sheboygan has been nicknamed the “Midwestern MalibuâAnd the freshwater surfing capital of the world, a surf destination for those near and far to enjoy.
With its central location along the east coast of Wisconsin, a shoreline jutting out into Lake Michigan, a lack of crowds, and a welcoming surf culture, some say Sheboygan is one of the best surfing spots in the world. during the peak wave season – winter.
Here’s what makes waves in Sheboygan, and how locals put the city on the map as an unlikely international surfing destination.
Sheboygan’s unique geography lends itself well to lake surfing
People are surfing all along the Wisconsin coastline. Because Lake Michigan is long and narrow, a strong northerly wind will create waves along the southern areas of the coast, while a strong southerly wind will create waves in the northern areas, said Jacob Bresette, a surfer and owner of Lake effect surf shop just north of Milwaukee.
Sheboygan is one of Wisconsin’s most popular surfing spots for a variety of reasons.
Thanks to the city’s central location along the coast, winds from many different directions – north or northeast and south or southeast – will create waves on its coastline.
Additionally, the city and harbor jut out into the lake, creating sheltered areas on both sides of the harbor that help create clean, ocean waves, Bresette said.
While surfing in Sheboygan is a year-round sport, the best months for waves are between September and March, when the cooler, denser air pushes the water into bigger, more powerful waves.
In the summer there may only be two or three days a month of good surfing, but in the winter there can be two or more good days a week, Bresette said. One of his most passionate surfing friends logged in every day he surfed for a year in Wisconsin and impressively had over 100 days of surfing, Bresette added.
Winter winds and storms can create waves 6 to 10 feet high, said Larry Williams, a surf icon born, raised and still living in Sheboygan. And bundled up in chunky wetsuits with slippers and balaclavas, freezing temperatures don’t stop surfers in the Midwest.
âThe coldest I’ve been in was 24 below the wind chill with a water temperature of 33 degrees,â Williams said. âThe problem is, when it starts to freeze, the top of your board freezes, so sometimes it can get too slippery to ride. “
Williams even described a grueling day when he realized his return to the beach was completely blocked by icebergs. He eventually had to jump on an iceberg when he fell after passing a wave, he said.
But the cold temperatures are worth having a place where people can surf thousands of miles from an ocean, Bresette said – and in fact, people all over the world come to Sheboygan to catch waves.
‘For me it got spiritual’: Williams brothers popularized Sheboygan as a surfing destination
Surfing in Wisconsin was nothing new when Larry and Lee Williams first started catching waves in the 1960s, but the twin brothers were instrumental in raising Sheboygan’s profile as a surfing spot.
After learning to surf at a young age with older boys at the Lakeshore Surf Club, the brothers were still at the beach, said Larry Williams.
They started hosting an annual surf competition, the Dairyland Surf Classic, around 1989, and what started as a state-wide word-of-mouth gathering grew nationally and then internationally, said Larry Williams.
The competition has not been around since the brothers abandoned the responsibility of hosting the event after nearly 25 years, but a more laid-back Labor Day surf weekend still celebrates the start of the surf season at Sheboygan every year.
These days, it’s not uncommon to see license plates from four different states parked along Sheboygan’s beaches in the middle of a work week when the surf is good, with people driving for hours and playing. sometimes crochet at work to spend a day on the water, Larry told Williams.
After the Williams brothers were featured in a 2003 surf documentary titled “Step Into Liquid,” Sheboygan found himself on the top surfers list of places to surf in the world, from California to places like Canada. ‘Indonesia, Australia and France.
The city has come to be known as the “Malibu of the Midwest” – a phrase coined by Larry Williams – and even the freshwater surfing capital of the world. Surfers call it COTU, or the âcenter of the universe,â Williams said.
There aren’t any sharks and it’s not too crowded – you ride every wave on your own, Williams likes to tell people.
âIn the legendary California breaks, everyone is fighting for a wave, people get in your way and people have attitudes. Here, there are no attitudes in the water, âhe said.
Bresette also said Wisconsin surfers are known for their typical Midwestern friendliness.
âWhat makes Wisconsin really special is the culture,â he said. âPeople came here from different parts of the country and said to me, ‘Wow, you’re really cool, people were really nice to me,’ and they generally had a great time in the water. So it’s cool that people too are what makes him so special.
Surfing is not just a sport, it’s a way of life, said Larry Williams.
âIt’s the way you decorate your home, it’s the cars you drive to get your boards to the beach, the food you eat. We have our own language, we even have our own music, âhe said. âFor some, surfing is a sport. For some, it’s a way to meet new people. For others, it is physical training. For me, it has become spiritual.
âThe serenity in the midst of this chaos of all these hammering waves dovetails with meditation,â said Williams, who practices Buddhism.
“What are you going to do in the dead of winter in Wisconsin?” â¦That’s it’
Larry Williams not only encourages surfers to come to Sheboygan, but also encourages locals to try surfing.
EOS Surf Shop in downtown Sheboygan, Wisconsin’s premier surf shop, is a place to go, with surf and kitesurf gear, private lessons, and rentals, among others.
“What are you going to do in the dead of winter in Wisconsin?” Do you want an adrenaline rush? This is it, âsaid Williams. “Catch big waves of fresh water and you live the dream.”