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Skating on the big lake: Lake Superior Aquaman finds a way to enjoy the water in winter

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Jim Richardson, aka Lake Superior Aquaman, poses for a portrait on Friday showcasing the rink he made on Lake Superior in the reflection of his sunglasses. Richardson calls the rink the People's Free Skate Rink. Friday was the rink's sixth day of being open. Tyler Schank / 2 / 4
The People's Free Skate Rink is off the shores of Leif Erikson Park in Duluth. Samantha Erkkila / serkkila@duluthnews.com3 / 4
Jim Richardson, more commonly known as Lake Superior Aquaman, skates on The People's Free Skate Rink on Lake Superior Friday afternoon. Adelle Whitefoot / awhitefoot@duluthnews.com4 / 4

Jim Richardson was wearing a silver cape and a red-and-blue star hat as he skated around a rink Friday afternoon that he shoveled out on Lake Superior. Locally known as Lake Superior Aquaman, Richardson found a way to enjoy the water even in the dead of winter.

It's called The People's Free Skate Rink, and to get to it, you must walk about a quarter mile onto Lake Superior behind the Leif Erikson Park stage. Richardson said he loves skating on Lake Superior, especially since it doesn't happen very often.

"So four years ago, my friend and I did something similar to this on a more limited scale, and through that I learned that you can find skateable ice beneath the snow," he said. "So here we are four years later and I knew there was skateable ice under the snow."

Richardson said he decided to shovel out a rink because he is a "junky for skating on the big lake."

"I don't like skating on rinks or indoors. Unless it's the big lake I'm not interested," he said. "That said, I've been waiting and waiting for these conditions again."

The rink isn't circular or linear by any means. Richardson described it as a "capillary system."

"I just played connect the dots and then from there it was the path of least resistance," he said. "If you hit a patch of hard snow that you can't get through, that just means you go the other way."

Friday was day six of the rink, and after Wednesday's snowfall it has shrunk from what it originally was.

"I did all the shoveling myself because we had a massive snowfall the other day," Richardson said. "So we lost a lot of territory from what the volunteers shoveled. This is about a quarter or a third of the size at its maximum."

And with another storm on the horizon this weekend, Richardson said Saturday may be the last day of the rink.

"We'll try to keep it going as long as we can, but it's supposed to snow the next couple days and we're supposed to get high winds on Sunday. If those winds break the ice up we obviously won't be able to do this anymore," Richardson said. "We'll see what kind of snow conditions we get. It's pretty easy to dig out, but if there is inches of wet snow on top, it's really going to curtail things."

Since Saturday may be the last day for the public to enjoy the rink, they are making a party of it. Starting at 2 p.m., there is an afternoon skate event and there will be music from RAW SPACE and DJ Kevin Craig. People are asked to have fun, keep each other safe and clean up after themselves, leaving no trace behind.

"It's the most fun I've ever had," Richardson said about skating on Lake Superior. "And you don't need skates to come out here and enjoy it."

Adelle Whitefoot

Adelle Whitefoot is a Michigan native who moved to Minnesota in Sept. 2014 when she started as a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle. She graduated from Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Mich., in 2012 with a bachelor's in English writing and has been a professional photographer since 2011. Whitefoot is the night general assignments reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. 

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