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Surf’s Up Dude

by @ 8:22 am on December 10, 2006. Filed under In The News

Not in California or Hawaii, in Cleveland:

CLEVELAND, Dec. 9 ? 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.?


?Cleveland surfers have a reputation for being gritty and hard-core,? said Ryan Gerard, owner of Third Coast Surf Shop in New Buffalo, Mich. ?They just don?t care what other people think about them.?

Except that they hate being compared with the modern California surf scene. Cleveland surfers believe they are the last remnants of the original surf culture in the 1940s and ?50s, when surfing was still a renegade sport of social misfits who scouted virgin breaks, surfed alone and lived by a code of friendliness to newcomers and respect for the water. They keep their best surf spots secret. They consider themselves part of an underground society. And they hope to keep it that way.


Occasionally there are days when the waves are good and the sunset falls into Lake Erie like a red fire and the Cleveland surfers bob silently in the water, alone in the city. And they laugh at their good fortune.

Not exactly my idea of a good time, but, hey, whatever works.

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