One hour north of Milwaukee lies the sleepy little lakeside town of Sheboygan (pop. 50,000). Being centrally located on the western shore of Lake Michigan makes this the prime spot for surfing. Yes! Wisconsin Surfing!
Known throughout the national surfing community as the “Malibu of the Midwest,” its five-mile stretch of beach has been ranked one of the hottest spots for freshwater surfing in the world. With 22 different breaks all within city limits, viewing surfers from your car is a breeze, or you can simply take a two-minute walk to the water’s edge. With points, piers, jetties, river mouths, sandbars and a huge reef, Sheboygan can make a saltwater surfer go slack-jawed.
Surf season begins at the end of August and runs through mid-April. November’s gale winds and the worst winter storms don’t hamper these rugged souls — jumping off chunks of ice and paddling across 33-degree water to surf perfect, glassy six-foot waves help give this place its thrill. Winds of 20-25 mph or more will produce ride-able waves. How big? Lake Michigan, with its 22,440 square miles of open water, can produce an open water swell of 24 feet several times a year. Whew! That’s a two-and-a-half-story building.
As co-founder of the Dairyland Surf Classic, now in its 24th year, I wanted to give back the Sheboygan community. As my twin brother, and fellow co-found put it, “The event was designed as a gathering of tribes; it’s a way of bringing surfers from all over the Great Lakes together. We just didn’t think it would become the largest freshwater surfing event in the world.” We’re just sharing the stoke. Now we have surfers from all over the world flying in! Paddling events, buy, sell and swap opportunities with bands, raffles, and more help fill the beaches during this jam-packed weekend. With free surfboard and stand-up paddleboard demos along with the sun and sand, it looks more like any beach in California or Hawaii ¬— not the Midwest!
Come join the last bash of summer and find out what Sheboygan’s all about. We’ve never had a reported shark attack!
The competition site is located at North Side Beach, just a five-minute bike or skateboard ride from plenty of the city’s finest sights. See Visit Sheboygan for more information. Remember: No glass at the beach and no food or beverage is sold at the event, but you’re welcome to bring your own. Hawaiian print shirts and baggy trunks are a must. And bring your camera. Tell your friends you just left the island. You don’t have to tell them you were on the western shore of a fifth of the world’s fresh water, which is the Great Lakes! But good secrets are hard to keep. Aloha.
Larry “Longboard” Williams has been a life long resident of Sheboygan and along with his twin brother, Lee “Water Flea” Williams has helped pioneer the Great Lakes surfing “stoke”. With 46 years of surfing behind him, he’s more well known in East and West Coast surfing hotspots than in his own hometown. After appearing in the award-winning surf film, Step into Liquid, and the Great Lakes surfing documentary Unsalted, even Sony Pictures caught on and modeled Surf’s Up’s Chicken Joe, an animated surfing chicken, after him and his brother. Sheboygan’s fame as a player in the world of surfing had come to fruition. The award-winning producer/director/writer Bill Povletich told the brothers’ story in the 2010 book Some Like it Cold.