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Rare Great Lakes pointbreak comes alive after the thaw

Michigan surfers score an epic freshwater session

Pointbreaks along the West Coast are a dime a dozen—but a Great Lakes pointbreak is a whole ’nother story. For one, those of us on the West Coast don’t have to deal with our surf spots freezing over for months at a time, nor do we have to brave 30-degree water and air temperatures. Then there’s the whole landlocked sea thing: How do swells even form with that small of a fetch? Point is, when we see a perfect right pointbreak doing its freshwater thing, we step back and take notice.

“This wave is very rare; it needs the right winds and size to make it come alive, and [it] didn’t break at all last year,” says Ann Arbor, Michigan–based surf photographer Brian Tanis. “This day was the best I’ve ever seen it.”

“Only a small group of folks know its location, and the water up there in northern Michigan has only been ice-free for a few days, so we’re just now able to surf there,” says Tanis. “The water temperature was in the low 30s, and air temp in the high 30s. There were just a few guys out and they were getting 150-yard rides on chest-high waves. A California native said it compared well with Malibu,” adds Tanis of their cold-water score.

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