I first learned how to surf when I lived in Costa Rica. Little did I know then, surfing is possible right in my own backyard, back home on the Great Lakes.

Now it is one of my greatest joys to ride freshwater waves where I currently live, on the Georgian Bay in Ontario, Canada.

I wanted to share with you my personal and up-close experiences on what it’s like to surf the Great Lakes. It’s definitely not an experience for everyone and some may think the waves are far from perfect – but it’s my bliss to call these waters my home.

1

Surfing the freshwater of the Great Lakes is filled with spontaneity, storms, cold weather, cold water and a unique, extremely stoked community. Here, a group of surfers are walking the pier in Kincardine, Ontario in late October.

2

The five connecting lakes that span across Canada and the United States, known as the Great Lakes, are the largest bodies of fresh water on the planet, and produce the best waves in fall and winter.

3

Whichever lake you live near, the direction you are facing, the type of break it is - wind is the key factor in creating waves on the lakes. Checking the marine buoy reports, along with apps, and connecting with communities like Surf The Greats - who now share Great Lakes wave forecasting workshops - are the best ways to find out when the next swell is coming. Going down to the water and checking is also a pretty sure way to know if the surf is up!

4

Surfing with friends is always a good idea, so is having the right kind of gear for your style, specific to the lakes and for the diverse temperatures. But number one thing I would say is - you can't surf the lakes without passion.

5

When summer waves come, it is quite the treat! Nothing like surfing on a sunny day with no wetsuit (or a thin one), catching little clean ones. I live on the Georgian Bay and we actually get frequent Northwest winds in the summertime, creating the funnest little waist-high waves and ankle-biters, perfect for a longboard.

6

It really is a very unique and eccentric community - one that I was to drawn to for that reason, including my love of surf. Most people are still surprised to find out that you can surf on the Great Lakes, even though surfers have been around here since the early 1950's. Everyone that I have come across is super welcoming and happy to share their stoke and waves. There is an awesome documentary on the history of surfing the Great Lakes called Unsalted.

7

SUP (Stand Up Paddle) surfing on the lakes is just as popular as surfing, if not more. A good friend of mine in Toronto catching an early morning dawn patrol wave in late December, at Ashbridges Bay.

8

There are more and more women starting to come out, and I am one of them! It really feels good to see a community of surfer girls growing on the lakes. Every September, Ladies of the Lakes holds an event that attracts female surfers, SUPers and SUP surfers together, on Lake Erie in Ontario.

9

There is something very magical about surfing on the Great Lakes. Walking out of the water, surrounded by pine trees, cool breezes and the smell of fresh water waves - it's something that can only be experienced on this little sliver of the planet.

10

Some say Great Lakes waves are far from perfect, but to me, they are utter perfection. You can't compare them to the ocean. Unsalted waves are gifts, and we are all very grateful for them.

11

Sunset sessions are the best, especially when they come with rainbows.

12

After a glorious summer afternoon surf in Wasaga Beach. We share the water here with handfuls of kite surfers. Even though the beach is 14km long, we all end up at the apex where the waves are the biggest.

13

The famous pier jump in Kincardine saves you energy instead of having to battle winds on the paddle out.

14

A late fall adventure with some friends along the Penetanguishene coast to find massive stretches of beach and not a soul in sight. This time of year is stunning on the lakes in Ontario, Canada. You won't find very many surfers around here.

15

We even have a surf competition - the West Shore Huron Classic, that takes place every fall in Kincardine, Ontario. The call for the contest is made last minute, waiting for the perfect storm. That doesn't stop an excited crowd of people who travel from south of the border, and from all over Canada.

16

A surfer in Kincardine, Ontario barely able to walk to the end of the pier in 80km winds during the West Shore Great Lakes Surf Competition. A true expression of what it’s like to surf on the Great Lakes.

17

Warming up under the contest tent. It was about 5°C (40°F) that day.

18

Winter can be harsh. This is Daryl shielding his face from hail stones. I just got out of the water here - it felt like hundreds of little sharp knives being tossed at your face, on top of being in the freezing winds and water.

19

Nothing like knife-cutting hail to get you even more stoked! Seriously, some of the most amazing, positive people surf the Great Lakes, while enduring some of the harshest conditions.

20

Picking the right waves requires the experience of being able to read very sporadic water movement and making intuitively quick decisions. It also takes a lot of patience.

21

... But it all ends up being so worth it.

22

Once in awhile it's nice to visit the ocean for a different perspective, but I am very grateful to live where I do and have the opportunity to surf on the Great Lakes. This is my freshwater backyard.

23

An ode to my kind of perfection.

Be the first to comment