It’s taken a couple of decades, but surfing in the Great Lakes is finally emerging from its classification as a mere novelty, a curio, and taking its place as a legitimate surf scene. Since wetsuits first became good enough to handle the frigid winter conditions when the Midwest generates big enough storms to whip up rideable waves, rumors and whispers floated out of Minnesota and Wisconsin and Michigan that there were proper waves breaking many hundreds of miles from the nearest ocean. Today, more surfers than ever—though still not many—walk through patches of ice to surf freshwater waves peeling in front of alder and birch-covered bluffs. This short follows one of those surfers, Erik Wilkie, as he engages in the time-honored, sometimes adventurous and sometimes tedious, surf check.

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