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Thursday, January 20, 2022

Duluth Surfing Community Featured in New Documentary

Professional surfer Ben Gravey challenges the barrel on Wednesday, January 5, 2022, when he catches a big wave at Stoney Point Break on Lake Superior, northeast of Duluth, Minnesota. (Clint Austin/Duluth News Tribune)

DULUTH. Minneapolis-based sports documentary maker Jan Planchon was looking for a new creative project just over three years ago. Inspiration caught up with him on the way back from the campsite in Grand Marais.

“Here we went back to Duluth and saw the waves coming from the lake and people were surfing,” Planchon said. “I thought: “What is this?!” I didn’t know that at that time people were surfing on the lake. I just thought I should do something about it.”

What started as a documentary about the surf community has since evolved into a broader look at Lake Superior and people’s connection to the lake called “Fresh Water”. The film is set to open February 19 at the NorShore Theater in Duluth, but Planchon still hasn’t filmed the waves and surfers at Stony Point near the Knife River on January 5.

“We were supposed to finish production last week. But we kept getting too many phone calls telling us the waves were going to be too big to miss,” Planchon said. “And it is true. When I got up here at 8 in the morning, I had not yet seen waves of this size with my own eyes. So it was worth it to see it.”

For the past two years, Planchon has mostly filmed this. He met several surfers who get out on the lake as often as they can. Whenever a major weather event occurs that causes waves, surfers call Planchon and he races to catch whatever he can. Surfers like Vonnie and Eric Wilkie of Danbury, Wisconsin use forecasts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website and windy.com to track wind patterns and determine the best time to surf.

“There’s a lot of science in that,” Eric said. “You have to figure out how long it will be before waves from many miles away arrive here at Stony Point. But all this work is a pleasure.”

The Wilkies have been surfing on Lake Superior since 2008. Eric learned to surf when he was 14 years old and continues to surf now in his 60s. He taught Vonnie how to surf a little later in his 40s. The couple have a YouTube channel where they share videos of riding the waves along the North Shore.

“It’s much colder here than other places I’ve surfed. And the cold restricts your body and slows down your blood, so you have to be careful,” Eric said. “But when we can do it, then comes the thrill.”

While warming up in their truck on January 5, the couple greeted familiar surfers by name as they passed by on their way to and from shore. Vonnie said the cold and safety factors associated with the venture bring the surfer community closer together.

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“Here everyone knows each other by name. And with new people, we always try to come up and say hello, tell them about the entrance and exit, let them know where they can go to the rocks or something like that, ”said Vonnie. “We care about each other.”

The Wilkies are two of the five surfers featured in the documentary. Planchon originally planned to focus solely on surfers, but COVID-19 changed his plans.

Jan Planchon of Minneapolis filming a surfer Wednesday, January 5, 2022, on Lake Superior at Stony Point, northeast of Duluth.
Jan Planchon of Minneapolis filming a surfer Wednesday, January 5, 2022, on Lake Superior at Stony Point northeast of Duluth, Minnesota. Planchon has been working on the documentary since 2019 and will premiere at the Northshore Theater in Duluth on February 1st. 19. (Clint Austin/Duluth News Tribune)

“Our first day of filming was November 27, 2019. We started filming with guns ready to make this amazing surf documentary. Then COVID broke out and we had to stay at home,” Planchon said. “But in a way it worked, because that’s when we took a step back and started looking at what else was going on with Lake Superior. That’s where he diverged in the broader view.”

To learn more about how winds work on Lake Superior, Planchon turned to the Great Lakes Observatory at the University of Minnesota in Duluth. There, he learned much more about the quest of scientists to learn as much as possible about this huge lake, which contains 10 percent of the Earth’s fresh water.

“This percentage is staggering. But the scariest part is that it is also one of the fastest warming bodies of water in the world,” Planchon said. “It is very scary to have so much fresh water in danger. So we wanted to focus on what can be done to keep it.”

The documentary also focuses on personal connections to the lake. One such story is the story of photographer Christian Dahlbek, who turned to photography to get rid of alcoholism. Dahlbeck began diving into the waters of Lake Superior to take and share photographs in 2015 and said the experience changed his life.

“I love getting out into the lake and taking shots from the water,” Dahlbeck said. “And Yang followed me on social media and thought my story was interesting so we sat down to talk about his documentary and I shared some stories from my life.”

Dalbek also took some shots from the water for the documentary.

Planchon ended his last day of filming with plans to add some footage to the documentary. He said he was very excited to be back in Duluth for the premiere in just over a month.

A surfer frozen in ice examines the water conditions in Lake Superior on Wednesday, January 5, 2022, at Stony Point.
A surfer frozen in ice examines the water conditions in Lake Superior on Wednesday, January 5, 2022, at Stony Point. (Clint Austin/Duluth News Tribune)

“It will be interesting to share this with the people who have welcomed us into their world and shared their stories with us,” Planchon said.

All proceeds from the February 19 premiere will benefit the Great Lakes Observatory. Tickets for $25 are already on sale. To learn more about the event and watch the Emmy-winning trailer, visit 515productions.com/freshwater.

World Nation News Deskhttps://www.worldnationnews.com
World Nation News is a digital news portal website. Which provides important and latest breaking news updates to our audience in an effective and efficient ways, like world’s top stories, entertainment, sports, technology and much more news.
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