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Duluth surfing community captured in new documentary – Twin Cities

DULUTH – Minneapolis-based sports documentary filmmaker Ian Planchon was looking for a new creative project more than three years ago. Inspiration came to him on his way back from camping in the Grand Marais.

“We were going back to Duluth here and we saw the waves coming into the lake and there were people surfing on it,” Planchon said. “I said, ‘What is this?!” I didn’t know that people surfed on the lake at the time. I just thought, I have to do something about this.”

What started as a documentary about the surfing community has since evolved into a more expansive look at Lake Superior and the connection people have with the lake, titled “Fresh Water.” The film is scheduled to premiere at the NorShor Theater on February 19, but Planchon has yet to get footage of the waves and surfers on January 5, at Stoney Point near Knife River.

“We are said to have completed production last week. But we kept getting too many phone calls telling us the wave would be too big to miss,” Planchon said. “And it’s true. When I woke up here at 8am, I still hadn’t seen waves this big with my own eyes. So it is worth it to see this. “

For the past two years, it’s been mostly Planchon’s shooting habit. He knows some surfers who go to the lake as often as possible. Whenever a major weather event leads to waves, surfers call Planchon and he races to catch what he can. Surfers like Vonnie and Erik Wilkie of Danbury use forecasts on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s website and wind.com to track wind patterns and determine the best times to surf. .

“There’s a lot of science to it,” Erik said. “You have to figure out how long it will take until the waves from miles away reach here at Stoney Point. But all that work makes it interesting.”

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

“It’s a lot colder than other places I’ve been to. And the cold constricts your body and slows blood flow, so you have to be careful,” says Erik. “But when we can, that’s when the thrill comes in.”

While warming up in their van on Wednesday, the couple greeted familiar surfers by their names as they passed on their way to and from the shore. Vonnie said cold and safety factors are involved in efforts to make the surfing community here more inclusive.

“Everybody knows each other here based on first names. And with new people, we’re always trying to say hi and give them some insight, let them know where they can go into rocks or things like that,” Vonnie said. “We found out for each other.”

Wilkies are two of about five surfers featured in the documentary. Originally Planchon was intended to focus solely on surfers, but COVID-19 changed its plans.

Ian Planchon of Minneapolis filmed a surfer on Wednesday, January 5, 2022, on Lake Superior at Stoney Point northeast of Duluth.
Ian Planchon of Minneapolis filmed a surfer on Wednesday, January 5, 2022, on Lake Superior at Stoney Point northeast of Duluth. Planchon has been working on the documentary since 2019 and it will premiere at the NorShor Theater in Duluth on February 19. (Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune)

“Our first day of shooting is November 27, 2019. We’ve started with flaming guns, ready to make this amazing surfing documentary. Then COVID hit and we had to stay home,” Planchon said. “But in some ways 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 it turns to a broader view. ”

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

“That percentage is amazing. But the scary part is that it’s also one of the fastest warming bodies of water in the world,” Planchon said. “Putting that amount of fresh water at risk is really scary. So we want to focus on what can be done to preserve it. “

The documentary also focuses on personal connections to the lake. One such story comes from photographer Christian Dalbec, who turned to photography as a way to help pull himself out of alcoholism. Dalbec started taking to the water in Lake Superior to take and share photos in 2015 and says his experience has changed his life.

Dalbec said: “I love going to the lake and shooting underwater scenes. “And Ian was following 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. my life”.

Dalbec also contributed some underwater footage to the documentary.

Planchon wrapped up its last day of shooting on Wednesday with plans to add some footage to the documentary. He said he’s excited to be back in Duluth for the premiere in a little over a month.

A surfer participated in an ice survey of Lake Superior's water conditions on Wednesday, January 5, 2022, at Stoney Point.
A surfer participates in an ice survey of Lake Superior water conditions on Wednesday, January 5, 2022, at Stoney Point. (Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune)

“It will be a pleasure to share it with those who have welcomed us into their world and shared their stories with us,” says Planchon.

All proceeds from the February 19 launch will benefit the Large Lakes Observatory. Tickets, $25 each, go on sale January 12. For event details and to view the Emmy-winning trailer, visit 515productions.com/freshwater.

https://www.twincities.com/2022/01/10/duluth-surfing-community-chronicled-in-new-documentary/ Duluth surfing community captured in new documentary – Twin Cities

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