For two months in 2005, all I did was surf.

For two months in 2005, all I did was surf.

I quit my job, packed two suitcases and flew to San Diego. My best friend from high school picked me up, and we drove 30 minutes north to Cardiff-by-the-Sea, a sleepy beach town with two dive bars and a grocery store where you could shop without shoes.

I would paddle along the reef, mostly by myself, sometimes three times before sundown. At night I could hear waves through the bedroom window, and my body would sway in rhythm.

When I came back to Cleveland, I could still taste the salt when I washed my hair. I'd sit remembering a Thanksgiving Day with water so clear you could watch the kelp sway in the current beneath your board.

I yearned for the sea, to sit alone waiting for waves.

Back in Ohio, I'd hear whispers of surf culture. People carving through the ice to ride winter swells at Edgewater Park. An old surf shop that once sold boards in Geneva.

Then I stumbled onto Neal Luoma - a local legend who's surfed Lake Erie since the 1960s and runs a small campground a quarter-mile from my family's lakeside cottage.

Luoma built his first surfboard in shop class. On homemade slabs, he and friends would surf so late in the season that they had to wear thrift-store diving suits and dishwashing gloves to keep from freezing.

Over the years, Luoma's boards ended up in Canada, Virginia Beach and South Africa. He stayed put, riding Walnut Beach, Geneva State Park and Mentor Headlands.

"We get big surf over here, too," he said. "Every break is a little different."

The best surf on Erie's south shore comes in the fall, he says, when heavy, cold winds push water warmed through summer. The lake has changed over the decades, and some of the best sandbar breaks have eroded. Luoma still rides every chance he gets.

"If you like the water, then it becomes more like an addiction," he added. "Now we've got some pretty good wetsuits. You can surf all year round."

Get to know him, and he might have a board waiting when the swell comes in.

For more outdoor excursions by land and by sea, click to the Ohio Adventure Map at columbusalive.com/venture.