Surfers take advantage of flood, surf Red Cedar River


Editor’s note: Because of technical difficulties, click here view a video of people surfing on the Red Cedar River.

It’s hard not to stop, watch and take photos when you see someone surfing on MSU’s campus.

On Monday, about six surfers took advantage of the high-water levels and warm weather by surfing the Red Cedar River behind the Hannah Administration Building.

Justin Wan / The Staet News

Alumnus Joe Matulis started surfing the river in 2004 after learning about the spot from a national champion bodyboarder in California.

“He found out I went to MSU and said, ‘Have you ever seen the river?’” Matulis said. “When I went back to the school in the fall, I kept looking (at) the river.”

There were about five people who surfed Saturday, and many students stood on the banks to watch and take photos after the Green and White Game.

“When we first started, it was just my twin brother and myself,” Matulis said. “Recently, because of the pictures online, a lot more people are trying it out.”

The surfers wore wet suits and rode both long and short boards, some of which were made by Matulis.

Matulis started making surf boards in 2001 to qualify for a summer lifeguard position in California with his brother. The surf company also makes paddle boards to use in Lake Michigan.

“We thought well, maybe we can learn how to surf in Michigan,” Matulis said. “We couldn’t find any surfboards, so we decided to make our own.”

Matulis said he lets his surfing friends know when he is going out, so it is spread by word of mouth.

Alumnus Remi Hamel, an East Lansing resident, learned to surf in Santa Cruz, Calif., and never thought he would be able to surf in Michigan.

“This definitely makes great stories to tell friends at home,” Hamel said.

Laingsburg, Mich., resident Thien Pham originally is from San Diego, and has been surfing in Michigan since 2010. He first learned about the Red Cedar River surfing from a YouTube video Matulis posted.

“(I) had no idea that we could surf on the lakes, and now even surf in the Red Cedar River, so (it’s) pretty darn cool,” Pham said. “This is like my local home break.”

Matulis said there are some dangers to surfing in the river, including floating logs, trees and shallow water. The high waters make the water safer for surfing because if someone falls, they are less likely to hit the bottom.

Red Cedar River surfers also don’t use leashes in case it were to caught on something and the surfer is pulled under, Matulis said.

“Everybody that goes though is a pretty good surfer,” Matulis said.

Japanese senior Mike Lohr has seen the surfers before, and said he is interested in trying it out.
“It’s uncommon, but not unheard of,” Lohr said, adding he has not surfed before. “I think it’s something I’d want to try if I had a board.”

Lohr said the surfers benefit campus.

“I think it gets people thinking about what people could do on campus besides partying,” Lohr said.

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