Put yourself in the flip-flops of the Quiksilver management team a moment. You have this vessel that has been at sea in search of different surf breaks for over five years. The bright red and blue Polynesian designs of the ship have made it impossible to mistake, elevating it to celebrity status. The Indies Trader has become a symbol to most surfers — some sort of modern day Pequod in search of the White Whale. And now, after traversing the remote islands and coast lines of the globe, after scoring epic surf more times than an hyper-active-grom can hit a lined-up pointbreak, and still, after having thousands of more famous and obscure surf breaks to travel to, where do you go?
“West Australia!”, “West America!”, “West South America!”, “West Africa!”, “No wait, you guys, I’ve friggin got it….MICHIGAN!!!”
So they went. On August 28, the Quiksilver Crossing arrived in New Buffalo, Michigan to spend a few weeks on the Great Lakes. But why here? The surfing world is already aware that waves exist in these waters, and they don’t even compare with those found in Mentawai, Fiji, or Cape Town. Perhaps The Crossing isn’t just looking for surf and trying to map out reefs. Perhaps they’re in search of something more profound. After its recent trip, it seems like what The Crossing is really looking for is for surfers, and what they’re really trying to map out is their culture.
When the Indies Trader entered the New Buffalo harbor it was a blustery day. Geoffrey Taylor, president of the Great Lakes Surfing Association, was perched on-top sand dunes waiting along with his friend Mike Mooney.
“Throughout the day there were about 30 to 40 surfers waiting,” said Taylor, “but you know what, everybody who comes to the Great Lakes kind of gets that greeting. If you think the Aloha spirit is lost, you need to come here to just pick it up again.”
Scoring good, but not “epic”, Great Lakes surf off a wind swell (the only possible type of swell Lake Michigan takes) on August 28 and 29, Captain Guy Seymore declared, “I AM A BELIEVER…yes, there is surf in the Great Lakes.”
However, it did not seem to be the surf which made an impression on the Quiksilver crew. Captain’s Log after Captain’s Log, Seymore comments upon the hospitality and constantly stolked spirit of the Great Laker’s.
With 9,774 combined miles of shore line — more beach than the U.S. West and East coasts combined — and a surfing population ranging between 1,500-2,000 people, Taylor explained that the surfing culture in Michigan consists of surfers who are happy to share their home breaks and surf sessions with any and all outsiders.
The Crossing seems to be onto something. After years of searching, they are finally beginning to discover surfing’s El Dorado in the most unlikely of places. Transcending the borders of land, race, and time, who would have thought that surfing’s true treasure is hidden not inside the waves, but within the local spirit and customs of the surfers who worship them. — Daniel Brown
For photos and the official Quiksilver Crossing Captain’s Log click here/