THE LAST PLACE YOU'D CHECK

Surfer - - The Last Place - Words By ASHTYN DOUGLAS Pho­tos By MIKE KILLION

While film­ing for his “Weird Waves” video se­ries, Dy­lan Graves goes on a seem­ingly ill-ad­vised mis­sion to hunt qual­ity bar­rels along the shores of Lake Su­pe­rior

Last April, Puerto Ri­can surfer Dy­lan Graves hopped on a plane to chase down a swell that was pre­dicted to be 10- to 13-feet at 7 sec­onds. For a vet­eran storm chaser like Graves, you’d think that means he set off for a thump­ing East Coast sand­bar or a reef-fringed Caribbean isle able to han­dle size­able swell. In­stead, Graves’ flight was head­ing to Min­nesota—the shores of Lake Su­pe­rior, to be ex­act—over a thou­sand miles away from the ocean.

For the past cou­ple years, Graves has been sniff­ing out the weird­est waves on planet earth for his video se­ries “Weird Waves”—in­clud­ing those that ex­ist in rivers or lakes. “I al­ways thought it sounded crazy to fly to the mid­dle of the States and find good waves there,” says Graves. “On pa­per, that idea sounded re­ally in­ter­est­ing.” So when lo­cal lake whis­perer Bur­ton Hath­away rang up Graves and told him the mother of all lake swells was about to slam the shores of Lake Su­pe­rior thanks to Win­ter Storm Xan­tos, Graves grabbed his boards and the warm­est wet­suit he could find and jumped on a plane.

One of the first lessons he learned when he ar­rived was that waves formed in a lake can, in fact, still kick your ass—even if you’re an ac­com­plished pro surfer.

“We showed up on our first day in Du­luth and it was howl­ing winds,” says Graves. “I just re­mem­ber it be­ing shock­ingly cold and the wind cut­ting right through my clothes. When I saw the lake for the first time, I was notic­ing that there were ice chunks float­ing in the lineup and it looked like storm surf. When you’re there, you never know if the swell will be gone the next day or even in a few hours, so we thought that might be our only ses­sion and had a go at it.”

Un­for­tu­nately, Graves’ com­mit­ment to carpe that diem only got him so far. “The cold I felt on my first duck dive ba­si­cally just erased my brain,” laughs Graves. “I re­mem­ber the wave and I came up and was like, ‘OK, what are we do­ing?’ I’ve been on cold-wa­ter trips and I’ve surfed in the snow in Nor­way, but some­thing about this was dif­fer­ent—maybe it was the fresh­wa­ter or the power of all the wa­ter mov­ing and the pe­riod be­ing so short and not giv­ing you any time to re­cover. I didn’t make it out my first try; I went in, re­grouped and told my­self, ‘I’ve got to do this be­cause this could be our only ses­sion.’”

Turns out, it was far from his only ses­sion dur­ing that swell. What fol­lows are snap­shots from when Graves fi­nally made it out to the lineup, and the rest of what ended up be­ing a days-long swell. Although most would have said Graves was dream­ing to think he’d score waves of this cal­iber in the Great Lakes, that’s also kind of the whole point of his se­ries. Sure, some waves are weirder than oth­ers, but that’s not to say they don’t have their day.

(Pre­vi­ous spread) Once the swell set­tled down a tad, Dy­lan Graves and Great Lakes surfer Bur­ton Hath­away pad­dled out at Stoney Point—lake Su­pe­rior’s pre­mier cob­ble­stone break—and scored tubes on par with those found on any good day in the ocean.(Be­low) “When peo­ple saw us walk­ing around with boards, es­pe­cially on the day when the swell was peak­ing and there was ba­si­cally a bl­iz­zard, they’re like ‘You guys are crazy!’” says Graves.(Right) “I was out the back look­ing out to­wards the lake,” says Graves, “and there were swells go­ing by that, if there had been the right setup for one of those swells to break, there could have very eas­ily been a 20-foot wave break­ing some­where. We talked to a light­house keeper later, and he said that there are a lot of ship­wrecks in the lake be­cause the waves break at such short in­ter­vals. The lakes have more ship­wrecks than al­most any­where. I had no clue that there was that much power there.”

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