Landmark Skybox

Breeze-Courier | Taylorville, IL
The Weather Network
Advanced Search
search sponsored by



home : news : state news free February 26, 2020

1/6/2020 10:48:00 AM
Lake Michigan surfer started in Chicago

MILWAUKEE (AP) — You might be surprised to learn surfing is increasingly popular on the Great Lakes. In fact, some enthusiasts plunge into Lake Michigan any chance they get, any time of year.

Shorewood resident Ken Cole hopes to make a statement through the boards he makes and rides.

Cole’s introduction, and instant infatuation, with surfing did not swell out of Lake Michigan. It was in a place far, far away and long, long ago. “It was the mid ’90s,“ he recalls. “I was in Hawaii doing an internship and writing my dissertation.“

Cole found himself distracted by the sea. “So I eventually bought an old beater board that had a ton of duct tape and a lot of water stuck in there and just chipped away at learning it and found that the sport itself was life changing . the culture and the folks I surfed with.”

Cole’s career led him to Chicago, and later Milwaukee. “I found that you can surf in Lake Michigan. Bought a board and eventually moved up here to Milwaukee back in the late ’90s and found the culture was growing. Back then it seemed there were about 25 of us in the water then.”

In 2013, he helped create an event to help attract more people to the sport he loves. Surf (at)Water now lures hundreds of people to tiptoe onto a board every summer.

Cole’s personal mission has expanded to the board beneath his feet, WUWM-FM reported.

“Every single surfboard — approximately 400,000 are made each year and of those 99.999 are made out of foam and fiberglass and also toxic resins. And it’s going to go into the water and eventually break down,“ he explains.

So, Cole decided to try making his own in his garage about three years ago. “Much to my wife’s and my family’s chagrin because making surfboards as you can see is extremely dusty.“ Cole adds, “But that was the first time I used jute.“

Jute is a vegetable fiber used to make coffee bags. Thanks to a local roaster, Cole stitches donated bags together. They cover the core hand-cut by Cole.

Wrapping the board in jute eliminated the need for fiberglass.

“So this board will have zero fiberglass whatsoever .. The process is a pretty long one because what I have to do is lay this jute down and pour bio-resin on it. All surfboards use resin of some sort — again an oil-based product,“ Cole says.

He opts instead for a plant-based resin. “So you pour the resin on this, it eventually cured and then you have to massage it in and then you have a solid surfboard.“

His most nagging challenge is the material that currently forms his surfboard’s core. Although it’s fabricated only 60 miles north of here, the foam leaches toxic substances — like styrene and benzene.

Several mechanical engineers are helping Cole come up with an eco-friendly alternative. “Ideally within two or three years put out something that shows Milwaukee and, dare I say, the world you can actually surf on something that when the times for it to go away, it doesn’t destroy the environment but rather feed backs into it.”

He has moved his experiment from his garage to a sun-drenched second floor space above a marina on the edge of Milwaukee’s harbor district.

And while crafting surfboards is a passion he hopes inspires others, Cole isn’t about to give up his day job as a psychologist.

“The best part is in the summer ... I’ll get up here about about 5 in the morning and sometimes I’m shaping and sanding from 5 to 7:30 and then I’ll go into the phone booth and change into my suit,“ Cole says.

What about winter surfing on Lake Michigan? Cole catches waves as often as weather and his schedule permits, including last weekend.

He looks down at the 10 foot long, 24 inch wide creation he’s shaping at the moment. “As surfers I truly believe since we’re the ones in the environment all the time and loving it, we can be leaders in so many ways. So if I crank out 12 to 15 boards and it sends a message, then others might catch on that have the capacity to build a lot more,“ Cole says.

Article Comment Submission Form
Please feel free to submit your comments.

If you are looking for the SPEAK OUT submission form, you can find it by clicking here: Speak Out Form

Article comments are not posted immediately to the Web site. Each submission must be approved by the Web site editor, who may edit content for appropriateness. There may be a delay of 24-48 hours for any submission while the web site editor reviews and approves it.

NOTE: All information on this form is required. Your telephone number and email address will not be displayed or shared.
Submit an Article Comment
First Name:
Last Name:
Anti-SPAM Passcode Click here to see a new mix of characters.
This is an anti-SPAM device. It is not case sensitive.

Trinity Dodge Fixed
Dr Paul The Dentist
NewsWebPagesOpinionPeopleObituariesAg & BusinessSportsContact UsLife
Subscriptions | Username & Password Reminder | Change Password | Life

Breeze-Courier & Printing | 212 S Main St. Taylorville, IL 62568 | (217) 824-2233 |

© Copyright 2014 Breeze-Courier & Printing. All Rights Reserved.
Original content may not be reprinted or distributed without the written permission of Breeze-Courier & Printing.

Software © 1998-2020 1up! Software, All Rights Reserved