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Water Buffalo

I recently came across some intriguing watery photos taken by Buffalo resident Laird Robertson.  The pictures show Buffalo’s amazing watery offshore world with an exotic flare. Is this really Buffalo!?  Sunken boats, divers, silent reflections, crashing waves, hidden atolls of sand and rock; this is a Buffalo that is so close but so unknown at the same time.  Buffalo is so infused with water it is easy to take its wonderfulness for granted.  But, that would be a mistake.  The Extraordinary Great Lakes Basin, at Buffalo’s feet and easily accessible to everyone, should be as celebrated here as the Rockies are in Denver.  Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, the thundering Niagara River and all the myriad tributaries and canals that weave throughout the Buffalo metro encompass a massive natural asset that is matched by few other places. 
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I asked Laird for a few words on what Buffalo’s waterways mean to him.  As you can see, he does not take it for granted but embraces it with every bit of his spirit.
For me, nothing compares to the feeling I get when I’m adventuring outside. The sense of freedom creates an addiction that I just can’t seem to kick. Growing up in Buffalo NY, one might not think there is much for an outdoor enthusiast, but there is. At a very young age, I’m 29 now, I was introduced to our magnificent lake. My parents bought a sailboat, not even knowing how to sail. sounds like a bad idea, but it was brilliant! I’m the 3rd of Winder Laird Robertson’s in my Family.
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My father, who passed 9 years ago now, was always trying to find new ways to take advantage of where we lived. Skiing in the winter at Buffalo ski club, Adirondack adventures in the fall and summer and now sailing on the lake. We joined the local sailing club and started racing out on the lake every Wednesday night. My parents learned quickly and even won their fair share of awards during those years. From that point on I became so fascinated with the lake. I wanted to be out on the water all the time. I find the lake so intriguing, so powerful. We live in such a neat, unique location.  During the summer months , the lake is filled with kayakers, fisherman, sailors, boaters, scuba divers, swimmers, kite boarders, surfers….etc. What a place! Its alive! Its magical! Then the winter hits. The ice boom is pulled out. Everything stops, it freezes over. All of that commotion stops. Its quiet and I love it!
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I’ve been into photography since high school and I’ve always loved shooting the outdoor aspects of Buffalo and its surrounding region. I enjoy sharing my experiences with other people, whether through my pictures or words. There is so much to explore, so much to really sink yourself into around here. I’ve yet to experience everything. Things are so fluid and ever-changing. When my father passed I made a life choice to live life to its fullest, to see and experience as much as I can, and to share these experiences with others. I get excited to wake up early and grab my canoe and head out on the lake. I love taking a few hours to hike the Niagara Gorge. I’m pumped when a big summer storm rolls through and I can grab my kayak and paddle out to the break wall to go surfing (see video clip at the bottom). I’m probably out on the water almost everyday during the summer. There is just so much to see!
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Currently, I’m all about the break wall. I’ve seen so much happen out there. In the winter I’ve walked across the frozen lake and seen Coyotes scavenging along it.  I’ve paddled out to photograph the great ice build ups and watch the ice start to move in the spring.  You feel like you are in a different world out there that time of year.  I’ve seen sections of the Ice boom come shooting out of the water when the ice starts to crack. During these months its deafly quiet out there and then all of a sudden you hear these very loud booms and cracking noises as the ice starts to shift! Are we in Antarctica or something? I mean really, super cool!
In the spring and summer I’ve watched tugboats unlock the ice boom and drag them in piece by piece, cormorants build their nests, a lonely fox that sat and watched me surf, found amazing snorkeling spots, gotten stuck in lightning storms on a beach along the break wall, watched scuba divers swim under my canoe, paddled on the backside of the break wall during huge storms and having monster swells bounce off the break wall and into another wave coming in the opposite direction , sending me and my little kayak into the air! crazy stuff.
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There’s really so much out there to see and do. Summer and winter. Utilize what we have. Whether its paddling on Hoyt lake, walking along the Niagara river, walking through Tift Farm or canoeing up the Buffalo River, get out there! sink yourself into what our region has to offer. Every year, more and more people are taking advantage of these opportunities and its great to see! It makes me happy to see others out enjoying what I have enjoyed for so many years now. I’m excited for the future of this region, that’s why I stayed here. I bought a house in Allentown, started my own little urban farm made lots of great connections and kept exploring. I don’t think I’ll ever stop. Get out there Buffalo!
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Fall winds provided lots of great surf on Lake Erie this year. The north end of the breakwall, above the mouth of the mighty Niagara, was the place to paddle when the winds whipped up. This spot is so unique, with its view of the Buffalo skyline, and so isolated. During a big storm you really feel all alone, because you are. Its hard to find that sense of isolation in Buffalo, but out there you can. Surfs Up!

Written by David Steele

David Steele

Architect ( a real one, not just the armchair type), author of "Buffalo, Architecture in the American Forgotten Land" ( www.blurb.com ), lover of great spaces, hater of sprawl and waste,
advocate for a better way of doing things.

View All Articles by David Steele
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