UNSALTED: Fresh water barrels on the Great Lakes

“Yaaaoooo! What’s up bro? How’s Santa Cruz? Watto, Mongo and I are in Sheboygan, Wisconsin getting ready to surf.” This was a phone message I received a few weeks ago from my buddy Slidawg. A combination of party noise and static abruptly ended Sli’s message.

I listened to the message intently while sitting at Steamer Lane during the flat spell of the Cold Water Classic—a spell which ended up forcing cancellation of the event—and was as skeptical of Sli’s message as I was of seeing a rideable wave come through at the
Slot. The party noise that filled the background of Sli’s message was obviously associated with a bar. I figured they were raising the roof somewhere and needed to raze me a bit. Little did I know Sli and the boys were actually in the heart of cheese-head country tipping-back a few, and they were about to go surfing. The joke was on me.

It turns out some talent was needed for a new movie entitled “Unsalted” (a new film presented by Op). The movie crew had been tracking a swell-producing storm that was headed towards Lake Michigan. The boys from Laguna were recruited and flew back to meet the impending swell. I caught up with Sli and Watto upon their return, and here is what they had to say regarding their Lake Michigan surf experience.

The images are stills from the upcoming movie and clips can be seen at http://www.unsalted.tv.

Watto: On the way out there I anticipated that maybe we would get some flat mushy waves. Nothing with any punch; nothing over waist-high; chest-high max! I brought a fish and a short board. I ended up riding my 5’7” fish.

Sli: I almost brought my Doyle out there thinking that we wouldn’t see much surf but they were claiming 6-8ft. And I was thinking, what, like a 6-to-8 foot ride in distance. I ended up bringing my short board and I’m glad I did. There was gapping barrels coming off this slab reef. After a terrible summer, I hadn’t gotten barreled in months and next thing I know I’m getting shacked in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Crazy!

Watto: It was insane that we ended up getting fully shacked! You know it’s a lot different surfing in fresh water than salt water cause you don’t float as well. It was really hard to paddle into the waves, catch them, and do hard carving turns. On my first few waves I saw barrels setting up and I ended up getting beat ‘cause I wasn’t getting into them early enough. I’ll tell you one thing, you get beat pretty hard in fresh water: it seems heavier and you don’t come up from hold-downs as quickly.

Sli: Yeah, the beatings were a lot gnarlier. You don’t come up as quick and it felt like you’re trying to paddle out of quicksand. You just don’t float as well.

Watto: And the swells usually last only about a day so you have to be on it. We surfed for like five hours and then it was gone.

Sli: The locals have it down to a science and know when storms that could produce swells are heading their way so they are pretty on it ‘cause the swells come and go quickly.

Watto: The local surf crew there is all time also. They have a surf club that is sponsored by Blatz Brewery in Milwaukee. When those guys get a swell, they celebrate with some brews. One of the members-coincidentally-said when you puke, that’s the sound it makes when it hits the ground – Blat! Classic guys though.

Sli: They were in Step Into Liquid. They all have team jackets with their nicknames on them and waves are cause for a party. I wish I was sponsored by Blatz.