Sunday, December 10, 2006

Surf's up in Cleveland. Who knew?

Here in Wisconsin we get excited about the lakes starting to freeze over. But according to the New York Times, in Cleveland they're made of sterner stuff. When the weather gets tough, the tough go surfing, heading for the big waves -- such as they are -- kicked up by the storms of early winter on Lake Erie before it freezes over.
They surf in Cleveland because they must. They surf with two-inch icicles clinging to their wet suits, through stinging hail and overpowering wind. They work nights to spend their winter days scouting surf. They are watermen on an inland sea.

Given its industrial past, Cleveland largely turns its back to Lake Erie, lining the coast with power plants, a freeway and mounds of iron ore to feed its steel factories. The shore is especially deserted in winter, when strong winds and waves pummel the land. In December, as temperatures dip into the 20s and ice gathers in the lake's small coves, Cleveland surfers have Lake Erie almost entirely to themselves.

"Surfing Lake Erie is basically disgusting," said Bill Weeber, known as Mongo, 44. "But then I catch that wave and I forget about it, and I feel high all day."
Looking for photographic evidence that this isn't just a sly hoax perpetrated on the NYT by some stringer with a bizarre sense of humor? Although the print edition of this NYT story didn't have any pictures, there's a chilly-looking photo at the online version. More photos here. Interested in joining the polar bear surfers? Blogging Ohio points to some resources.

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