Winter Waves: Lake Michigan surfers embrace freezing temperatures

A group of surfers say the best time of the year to hit the waves are in winter! 

(NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Battling the winter blues with some time out on Lake Michigan. Sounds impossible this time of year, but a group of surfers say -- not so fast!

The thermometer out on the lake reads 34 degrees, and the air temperature is even colder at 29 degrees, but 11 people were spotted out on Lake Michigan one cold January day.

Newschannel 3's Kirk Mason caught up with a group of Lake Michigan surfers in Hammond, Indiana.

"It's a beautiful lake! These waves need to be ridden, so why not?" Dave Benjamin said.

Surfers say Lake Michigan's waves are much more fun when the weather turns cold.

"I've been swimming in Lake Michigan for 48 years. And for 38 of those years, I didn't know about winter surfing, so I was only using Lake Michigan in June, July and August. The best waves start rolling in in September, October, November," said Benjamin.

"The waves are much stronger in the wintertime because we get a stronger north wind, and the waves have a chance to build over the long fetch of the lake," said Steve Hobbs.

Winter surfing is not for everyone. Experienced surfers tell Newschannel 3 the waves can be too big for beginners, so it's not the time to learn. You will need the proper equipment, which includes a wet suit, boots, gloves and a hood, because the water is dangerously cold.

These Lake Michigan surfers said even in below zero conditions, when ice will develop on their beards, they really don't get cold.

"Once you get moving, you build up a lot of body heat in this thing. you will be a lot colder out [on the shore] than I will be in the water," said Hobbs.

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