I have lived in Sheboygan County my entire life. That is almost 40 years now and it was not until recently that I heard the term "Malibu of the Midwest". I am not sure if it was after I got my first camera a little over 10 years ago, or not, but I consider it recent. I suspect that after I got my first DSLR camera, I saw more things to photograph then ever before.
I tend to gravitate to the Lake Michigan shoreline for the great sunrises that happen there just about any day of the year and maybe that is when I noticed a group of people actually SURFING. To me, the waves just seemed too small to surf.
*DISCLAIMER: Of course, I am NOT a surfer and do not know what constitutes a "large enough" wave to surf.
Since the first time I noticed the surfers on the lake, I have always tried to get to the lake to capture some photos and aerial footage with my drone. Now, because the lake is typically only active for the surfers when the weather is less than desirable otherwise, additional planning is required. High winds typically are not good for the drone and stormy situations bring rain which is not good for my DSLR setup.
People that live in Sheboygan are not lining up to talk about all the great things there are to do in the city. So, when you tell them the city is considered the "Malibu of the Midwest", they are not only confused by that but will not agree. Obviously, they do not surf. Even publications like the New York Times, Travel Wisconsin and The Culture Trip have written articles about this very label and few even know a Great Lakes surfing competition was once held at Deland Park in Sheboygan.
Fast forward to this week, the FIRST week of November 2017 and I am at the lake because there is an app that told me the surfing was going to be getting good as the day progressed. I tend to find info on the surf in other places like Surf Milwaukee Facebook group and VisitSheboygan.com webcams that stream live conditions of the shoreline.
Saturday afternoon at 4 PM, I arrive at The Elbow (you know, the bend in the North Pier?) and there are about 2 dozen cars, trucks, and vans clearly owned by surfers, parked in the lot. Surf boards and wet suits are scattered about and a few visitors are parked in running vehicles trying to warm up.
I fear it might be too late, but get my camera gear situated anyways. I use my Canon 7D Mark II with my 70-200mm f/2.8L II USM lens on my monopod for stuff like this. Because there is a breakwater near The Elbow, I am able to set-up to capture images from the side. I can also capture images of the surfers walking to locations on the breakwater, standing in line to get back into the water and waiting for the right moment to do the same.
Yeah, the wind is whipping rain directly into my face, but the power of the waves lures me into position anyway. I was only there about 45 minutes and to me, the non-surfer, the waves seemed inconsistent, almost not worth it.
Talking to one surfer, he said that he was at The Elbow at 7 AM that morning and there was NOTHING going on, but that a few kit boarders were setting up for some fun. He chooses to get back into the car, drive between Two Rivers and Port Washington with hopes of finding a place to surf. He made his way back to Sheboygan. "It wasn't the cleanest line, but it was better than nothing", he said.
It was cold. The wind was out of hand and the small raindrops were being into my skin like a sandblaster, but that did NOT phase the surfers. NONE of them looked like they were questioning the reason they were at The Elbow at that point. ALL of them were trying to get back into the lake to get another chance at the surf.
Lee and Larry Williams said the best time to surf in Sheboygan happens between November and March. Yes, the coldest time of the year in our area, but for a few brave souls, the "stoke", or "adrenaline rush surfers get riding in outrageous conditions", takes over and you forget about the cold.
Trust me, from my vantage point, they look cold, because I AM cold standing there. I just want to capture the fun they are having, but clicking my camera does not produce any heat for me on these cold days. The photos that I capture certainly provide a sense of "somewhere else", but in reality, we are in Sheboygan, "down by da lake" watching the surfers take on The Elbow.
© 2016 via Drone