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We spoke with two avid Milwaukee surfers.

Hanging Ten with Eric Gietzen

We spoke with the chairman of the Milwaukee chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, who has been surfing in the city since 1986, about his never-ending quest for the perfect wave.

How is surfing in a lake different than in an ocean?

The conditions are almost always cold. I surf maybe once a year in my trunks. The rest of the time I wear a wetsuit. And if a swell comes in on the ocean, it can last for days. Here, the waves are fickle. When you do get the wind, there’s a window of hours. You gotta be ready.

What do you like about surfing in the Midwest?

Whenever I travel to the Coast, I realize that the surf culture in the Midwest is going through a golden age. The attitude is positive, and you know a lot of the people in the water with you. The waves here aren’t ocean quality, but a lot of what people love about surfing has nothing to do with the water and everything to do with surf culture. When conditions are good, you’re excited for the waves, but you’re also excited to see your friends. You get days every once in a while that are so special. The experience transforms you. That’s what keeps me coming back, in spite of the crappy weather.


A Shore Thing

Photo by Andy Stenz

Step inside the Lake Effect Surf Shop (1926 E. Capitol Dr., Shorewood) and you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to a sun-soaked beach town somewhere in Cali. Gleaming longboards and brightly colored T-shirts line the walls, and co-owner Jake Bresette could be mistaken for a cast member from the Point Break reboot.

Bresette, who opened the store in 2016, says that he’s been surfing the Great Lakes for about nine years. “When I first started I’d see maybe one or two other people in the water,” he says. “Now I sometimes see as many as a dozen.”

Surf-curious shoppers who want to get their feet wet can rent all the gear they need from the shop for about $60 a day. Visit lakeeffectsurfshop.com for more info.

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Deland Park, Sheboygan

Sure, it’s the bratwurst capital of the world. But 8-foot waves (during the winter) earn Sheboygan the moniker “Malibu of the Midwest.”


“Make Waves” appeared in the July 2018 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Buy a copy at milwaukeemag.com/shop.

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