Have you surfed an icy wave lately? Wrangled a 12-foot python? While many of us think of these activities as spine-chilling and blood-curdling, there are people out there who are drawn to them like a magnet. Where we see a buzzing beehive and think, “Run!” they think, “Fun!”
These individuals are certainly inspiring, but we’ll be cheering them on from the comfort of our (warm, bee-free, and snake-less) couch.
‘Surfer Dan’ Rides Lake Superior’s Frozen Waves
Daniel Schetter—a Marquette native who is affectionately known as Surfer Dan—has a unique signature look: a long, icy beard.
His love of surfing the waves of Lake Superior isn’t seasonal, so he enjoys the hobby year-round—even on sub-zero winter days. The now-famous icicles that emerge on his whiskers are just a price of doing business (though we might remind you that this is not a business but a hobby).
Schetter’s Christmas Day photo shoot ended up going viral, as the photos were almost unbelievable. Funnily enough, Dan soon realized there was a community of fellow surfers that don a similar look. “It’s not like we’re trying to out-ice beard each other,” he told MLive. “I just happen to have the biggest ice beard.”
However, Schetter cautions others about trying the activity for themselves. He wears high-quality protective gear and has decades of experience under his belt. In fact, he’s been surfing the Great Lakes for more than 20 years. (TBH, we aren’t even tempted.)
Beekeeper Shaana Way’s Business is Buzzing
As the owner of Grass Roots Honey Co., Shaana Way lives and breathes bees.
While most of us would be scared to spend our days around the tiny, winged insects, Way not only interacts with them at her Galesburg farm, but regularly gets called to dissemble hives from areas where they’re unwanted—anywhere from construction sites to the exterior of suburban homes. Then, she drives them back to the farm where they can live out the rest of their lives in peace, creating the honey she sells at farmers markets and roadside stands.
Because bees play such a massive role in the order of the natural world, this is important work.
“People try to push them in different directions to thrive, to make hives a certain way, but they’re artists. They do their own thing,” she told NowKalamazoo. “Being a beekeeper is like being in a relationship with the bees. It’s like husbandry. It’s also like chaos sometimes.”
Her hope is to continue growing the business and even expand into education, teaching high school and college-aged kids how to become beekeepers and keep the trade alive.
Dr. Cory Redman Digs Up Creatures From the Ice Age
Although they didn’t expect much, he and other experts ended up unearthing most of the remains of a juvenile mastodon—a long-extinct mammal that was the prehistoric relative of the modern elephant. Redman later determined that the animal died more than 11,700 years ago.
Michigan was once home to many of these giant creatures, who roamed the region during the Ice Age. A total of 300 mastodons have been found across the state and Redman has played a part in drying, studying, and displaying their skeletons.
Father-Daughter Duo Catches Snakes & Subscribers
Instead of going to movies or attending father-daughter dances, Jaime and Krista Guarino bond over catching snakes. With their joint YouTube channel, which has garnered more than 386,000 subscribers, they attempt to convince others of their simple slogan: “Snakes are NOT evil creatures.”
In their most recent SnakeHuntersTV series, they say, “Our main mission and goal has always been to educate the public who have had an irrational fear of snakes for no reason other than what they have been taught. In an effort to subdue the fears of the general public we find it necessary to show the true colors of these fascinating reptiles.”
You may recognize the family from their viral video of a baby (Krista’s younger sister) playing with the family’s beloved (not to mention big) 20-year-old Burmese python named Nay-Nay. As of 2016, they have 40 pet reptiles, some of which are rescues.
George Hedgepeth Teaches Michiganders How to Survive Like Their Ancestors
George Hedgepeth has been enthralled by ancestral skills from the time he was in preschool. He went from learning about the wilderness from his self-described “Hillbilly” family to reading books about survival, then studying anthropology and archeology in school. Eventually, he formed a group called Great Lakes Primitives, the first of many ventures involving teaching Michiganders about wilderness survival and bushcraft.
At the Michigan Folk School in Ann Arbor, he teaches courses like “Bushcraft, Survival, & Ancestral Skills,” “Atlatl and Dart Workshops,” and “Bushcraft Fire Skills.” Are you up for the challenge?
A UM Student Caught a Gigantic Tarantula On Camera
Mike Grundler is so obsessed with spiders and snakes that he went and got a whole Ph.D. studying them.
While at the University of Michigan in 2019, he and other biologists trekked through the Amazon lowlands at night. In the resulting video, which has been viewed almost 4 million times on YouTube, he says, “We were just walking the trails we walk along slowly and we heard a scrabbling in the leaf litter, and we looked over and we saw the tarantula on top of the opossum and we just sort of sat and watched that observation until the tarantula got tired of us and walked away,” adding that “the tarantula was about the size of a dinner plate.”
If a gigantic spider dragging an entire opossum across the rainforest sounds too far-fetched to believe, you’ll have to check out the video for yourself.
Grundler also wrote a breakthrough study on how snakes have evolved following the extinction of dinosaurs, so he’s basically an expert on all things creepy-crawly.
Rachel Mifsud Forages for Wild Foods
According to her Instagram page, Rachel Mifsud is a “wild foods, homesteading, and primitive skills instructor in the Great Lakes region.”
She also runs Will Forage For Food, which is a community of people who want to learn how to live off the land, use traditional knowledge, and do their grocery shopping in the woods. They host events across Michigan and the Great Lakes region, so be sure to check out the different chapters for fun gatherings like Fall Mushroom Camp or Forage and Feast.
Michigan State Professor Runs an Actual Bug House
Being in a house filled with bugs might sound like a nightmare to many of us, but for Gary Parson, it’s just another day at the office.
The Michigan State University professor teaches college courses on insect taxonomy and manages the A.J. Cook Arthropod Research Collection. He’s also the director of MSU’s Bug House, which provides educational tours on bugs to the general public—especially kids.
According to the website, “The Bug House features stunning specimen displays and a menagerie of live insects and arachnids—including beetles, tropical cockroaches, and tarantulas.”