SURFING THE GREAT LAKES
We asked our founder Adam to let us in on a few secrets to surfing the great lakes in Toronto ... and Here's What He Had to Say
What is Lake Surfing ? How Would You Describe Lake Surfing?
Surfing on a lake for the most part is like going into battle, you need to work hard for your waves. It's typically heavy on-shore wind swell, so the paddle out can be heavy. If an ocean surfer is looking for training, come surf a lake! You will gain strength and improve your stamina guaranteed, furthermore you will likely get frustrated with conditions and appreciate the ocean much more. I should also note, on the lake if you can catch the right day at the right time, it can be extremely magical. Check out the picture above, that was one of those days!
How is the Surf Scene in Toronto?
The surf scene in Toronto is pretty good from August to April. When I say pretty good, I mean "there are waves". Maybe not what most people would think are good waves, but there are lots of them, like lots... every 6-8 seconds! In the summer months you can find us wake-surfing behind boats, which is amazing training and a fantastic way to get used to new boards.
What Are Your Favourite Spots?
The secret of the Great Lakes is to work your way through forecasting and timing then also knowing the right spots. I've been surfing the lakes for about 15 years so I've got that part down. I have 2-3 favourite spots on each lake that I frequent. For the most part I see all the usual suspects I've been sharing waves with for the past decade at those spots. I'm not going to name them, as that is a definitely frowned upon.
Nowadays, there aren't many secret spots left and most good spots could look like Huntington Pier on a good day. There are still a few secret gems left that are sacred, they might take many hours to commute to, but it’s worth it every time! It's great driving right up to the waters edge and seeing clean, long empty waves to enjoy with 2 or 3 of your crew.
To get a glimpse into cold-water surfing in Toronto, check out the Weird Waves Episode by Dylan Graves. What a legend!
Now for the Fun Stuff... What would you Recommend Gear Wise for Lake Surfing?
Good question! For surfing on the lakes you need a good wetsuit collection.
If you want to surf often you will need 3 setups.
1) Your fall suit is for when the cold winds pick up and the water is getting too cold for board shorts, a 3.2mm, which is good for when the water temps start falling. You will get about 1 month of use out of this suit, and will be great to take on surf trips to the Ocean.
2) Next you need a 4.3mm full suit with 3-5mm booties and gloves, maybe even a detachable hood for cold windy days. This will get you through 2 months of fall leading into winter. Maybe less for you, I'm very warm-blooded.
3) Next you need a hooded winter suit. 6.5mm with 7-8mm booties and mitts. This will get you right through the winter. The ice will build up on your hood brim, pull strings and anything that isn't touching your body - but you will stay warm in that gear as long as you are in the water and moving. Outside of the water on a windy day is a different story. Avoid that as much as possible.
That covers wetsuits. Next essentials are a Poncho Towel Changing Robe and a rubbermaid bin. You seriously can't live without these, and is essential for parking lot changes. The poncho keeps you warm while you pull off your suit while standing in the bin. The bin cover acts as a perfect platform to put on your socks and shoes. Once everything is off, put the lid on the bin, and you have the perfect wetsuit travel bin to take you wet gear home to rinse off. Speaking of which, I use Biodegradable anti-bacterial Dawn soap to wash my wetsuits. It generally works better than the expensive "wetsuit cleaner" and is more sustainable and environmentally friendly.
Finally! You will need a Gnarwall Wetsuit Hanger or Drip/Dry Rack to hang your freshly cleaned wet-suits! Total product plug there! Remember to not hang your suits by the shoulders, that will stretch your suit out and put unneeded stress on all the seams.
Top Three Tips / Advice for Beginners wanting to try Lake Surfing?
1) Tag along with a friend or go scope out the scene
2) Take a lesson, get intel from other lake surfers
3) Surf spots that are at your ability level
Before you go out and buy thousands of dollars worth of gear, tag along with a friend, check out some spots when people are surfing, take a lesson and see what the scene is all about. Typically when the surf is happening on the lakes it's really bad weather, you need to drive far during working hours or wee hours of the night. Lake surfing is definitely not for everyone, it takes a lot of time and commitment to learn on the lakes. One huge positive of surfing on the lakes is that once you get to good ocean waves, it's like a fantasy.
On that Note, Want to learn more about surfing on The Great Lakes?
Check these resources out!
Your Cheat Sheet To Great Lake Surfing
1. Men Journal : What You Need to Know to Surf The Great Lakes
2. How to Track the Waves : Great Lakes Surf Radar
3. Local Surf Essentials : Surf Ontario