The Ice Beard Surfers of Lake Superior

By | March 6, 2020


-I heard of Surfer Dan.
-Yes. He has the world’s
most epic beard in the winter. -Wait, so you’ve
actually seen him? -Yes, stopped on the side
of the road in a really bad storm. I was like, “There’s this man
out there surfing. What is happening?” -He comes out of the water
and this, like, frozen beard. -We’ve got some pretty extreme
people up here, but he’s one of the most
extreme extreme people. -He’s like a local legend.
He takes care of everyone. -I think somebody, like,
almost died, and he saved them, like, on his surfboard
or some shit like that. -My understanding is that
he literally just, like, lives in the water. -I don’t think he’s real. ♪♪ -Morning. How’s the sky look out there? Let me check the forecast. -Still building. -Wind chill,
7 degrees Fahrenheit. -7?
-Yeah, it looks like you’re probably gonna be
bearding today, dude. I guess everybody kind of thinks
they know Surfer Dan, myself. Hardcore Dan, Surfer Dan,
Psycho Dan, Late for Dinner Dan, whatever you want to call me
Dan. Do they really know me
or do they just know of me? Dan Solo. Surfer Dan Squatch. I got to find my pants Dan. My name is Daniel,
I live in Marquette, Michigan. It’s the biggest town in the UP. Man, I sure love living
in my hometown. ♪♪ A Yooper is someone from
the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, born in the Upper Peninsula
of Michigan. Someone who loves
the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. My friend Allen’s staying here
right now, catching waves,
ice bearding, doing his thing, and I have my dog,
and I have a lot of friends, and I’m really grateful
for that. ♪♪ So cold right now. There’s waves breaking over
the wall over there right now, splashing over it. There’s waves, baby. Smokey, you ready? Go.
Come on. Up there.
That a boy. We can’t see the bottom
of the lake. We don’t really know
what’s in there. We think we know
what’s in there. And I know the ocean has way
more life in it, it’s older and everything, but there’s also
mysteries in the lake, there’s magic spirit beings,
there’s folk lore, there’s Grandfather Turtle
at the bottom of the lake, moving around. ♪♪ This is where the ice beard
started for me, right here. I started surfing this spot
with a wet suit, and then I noticed I started
to get icicles on my beard, and it made me feel
like I was a kid again when you take a shower
before school, and you’re walking to school,
and your hair freezes, but it was on my face, and I had this vision to grow
the ice beard in the wet suit, and then cut out
of the wet suit, and surf naked, and the ice beard
would be so big that it would cover
my private parts. Through the ice surfing
and the beard, this media thing these days, and learning how to use
the Internet a little bit, it’s really, like,
sort of exploded. ♪♪ I shaved my beard for next year, so the focus is on Allen’s
ice beard this year. Man, he’s got a great ice beard.
-I saw Dan ice beard it up. He called me up,
I hadn’t seen him in years, and he goes,
“Do you have your beard still?” And I said yeah.
He sent me that picture, and I was just like,
“I got to do this.” You know, he’s just like,
“Get up here, man. We’re gonna bully them
with your beard.” And I’m glad to be back. Every time I get a chance
to come back and surf, like, I just love to. It’s like a garden of Eden,
kind of, except, like, just made of snow and ice. I didn’t realize how hard
the lakes are to surf because it’s no salt
in the water, so the buoyancy’s a lot less,
but it gets really fun. It’s a real wild thing
getting in the water and then feeling that water
the first time every day, like, that first hit. -Yeah! ♪♪ Surfing’s a weird thing because
it’s sort of a selfish thing. You’re enjoying this beautiful
magic place, so you kind of want to guard it, but at the same time,
it feels so good. Me as a person,
I want to share that feeling. First time I surfed,
I was living in Okinawa, Japan, and we stopped in Waikiki
on the way to Michigan, and I caught a wave
with a boogie board, and I was like, “Whoo! This is the best feeling ever!” And instantly, I was addicted. Then we came back to Michigan
and I saw the waves. So now I had this new thing
called surfing in my mind and in my heart to apply
to our local waves. I kind of sort of gave up
on school for the life of the lake. I drifted away from surfing
for quite a while, and now that I’m back
into surfing, it’s really —
it’s become my medicine. I quit drinking,
I got back into surfing. Had I not, I would probably
be dead or in prison because surfing
has saved my life. ♪♪ ♪♪ Hi, everybody. Come say hit to them. Say hi to the pigeons, dude. -There’s pigeons?
Hey, pigeons! -Fly around a little bit. There they go!
There they are. Come here, babies. Okay, let’s go get some food. What’s up? -Dan!
-We got a crew. -I know, they were in yesterday.
-Hold on, feel this. -Ugh! I hate it.
-No! -Just let me warm up
a little bit. -Don’t do it! -Okay, okay, okay.
-Give me a hug. -I didn’t know if you were
around here anymore. -Dan!
-Come on in, we’re sitting
at the counter. Let me get a steak and eggs. -Surfer Dan comes here about
three or four times a week. I’d say this is his spot. I think it’s crazy that he surfs
in the winter. It’s so cold in the summer
in the lakes, I can barely get in the lake. I can’t imagine how cold
it is in the winter. -He doesn’t have, like,
a specific job. He kind of just works
on his own. I don’t know, he’s kind of just
like a free bird, just kind of surfs and finds
jobs here and there, I think. -Everybody’s got different
skill levels and bravery levels, and it can be very dangerous. So, being comfortable
in these positions and knowing what’s happening
can really help save your life. When the fire chief told me that I’m the most valuable guy
in the water during rescues… I agreed with him. Whoo! -He’s rescued at least three
people I know from drowning. -I’ve saved a lot of people. Last summer, I was out
at a little inland lake, and there was a raft
where all the kids were playing. The moms were on the beach
talking, and I see a kid struggling right in front of everybody,
but nobody sees him. So I jumped on this kayak
and I paddled straight to him. He went right under, and I reached down
out of nowhere, and I picked him up
and put him on the kayak. He would’ve drowned
right in front of everybody! I’m not always looking,
I can’t save everybody. When it happens, that makes me
feel good that I helped someone live
to have another breath. Hey, you guys should get in
over there where it’s beautiful! Come on. Where it’s beautiful over there, with the trees in the water
and the sand. -Over there?
-Yeah, over here. ♪♪ -Whoo! ♪♪ When I go surfing,
sometimes I’ll get so cold and so hypothermic
that I’m convulsing, that activity itself makes me really appreciate
normal, everyday life that gets boring
or depressing to me. So all of a sudden, I’m grateful
for those warm, boring times
where I felt restless. Now I’m really grateful
for a hot shower, a comfortable chair to sit in, and surfing in this cold weather
and that, it — it brings it back
into perspective for me. I don’t really know
what a legend is. It’s a lot of pressure,
but at the same time, I’m not trying to live
up to that. I’m just being me because
I think the fun stuff we do is so unique that it seems
legendary to people when, to me, it’s kind of,
like, normal. You can look at us and say, “Oh, they’re not that great
of surfers,” or — or, “Those waves aren’t really
that good,” but it gets real out there,
and it can be very dangerous, but I think that’s part
of the draw for me. Sometimes I get to
the brink of death, but it really
makes me feel alive. As much as it almost kills me, it’s really given me
more of a purpose. ♪♪ Isn’t it fun when I’m talking? The… ♪♪

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