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Surf's way up on Lake Michigan

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012 9:29 a.m. CST

(MCT) — Undeterred by wind and warnings, an intrepid few arrived at the seething Chicago lakefront Tuesday, drawn to near-record high waves whipped up by superstorm Sandy.

"Some people don't believe (the waves) are real. They think they're Photoshopped," said Sherry Percic, 64, who stopped near Oak Street Beach to take photographs.

Others sought an experience more visceral.

Dave Benjamin, executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, said about 10 surfers were out at 57th Street Beach on Tuesday morning to take advantage of the waves, which he estimated were about 5 feet high.

"It was a little sloppy, but it was surfable," Benjamin said.

The blustery weather pushed waves to 21.7 feet at a buoy about 50 miles southeast of Milwaukee, marking the second-highest waves recorded at the spot. The highest waves recorded at the buoy, which does not operate in the winter, occurred last fall and were 23 feet, said Gino Izzi, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service.

Winds were gusting at 48 mph three miles out into the lake and 57 mph at Michigan City, Ind.,, but were expected to be calmer Wednesday, Izzi said. The lakeshore flood warning was also expected to expire Wednesday. City officials said they would reopen the lakefront path when the flood warning expired or when the path was deemed safe.

"It will still be breezy Wednesday, but nothing like what we saw Tuesday," Izzi said.

Tribune reporter Deanese Williams-Harris contributed.

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