Surfing on America’s Great Lakes

By | 2021-09-27

What are America’s surfing hotspots? Hawaii, California, and Florida usually top the lists; North and South Carolina rank high, too. But did you know that some of the country’s most dedicated surfers live in the middle?
They’re known as freshwater surfers, and their stomping grounds are the Great Lakes.

Quick Geography Recap: America’s Great Lakes

The Great Lakes of North America are located in the northern mid-east pocket of the United States and Canada’s southern mid-east region. Gigantic and interconnected, the five freshwater lakes touch Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Ontario. By name, they’re known as lakes Erie, Huron, Michigan, Ontario, and Superior.

Best Season for Great Lake Surfing

Wind is a huge factor for North American lake surfing. The bigger the breezes, the bigger the waves, making November through February peak season. When most folks are inside clutching mugs of hot cocoa, coffee, and tea, Midwest wave riders are strapped into thick wetsuits, battling -17° F wind chill.

Great Lake Surfing Scene

If you ask enthusiasts, they’ll probably explain that lake breakers were the first waves surfed in the United States over a century ago. But today’s “scene” didn’t start happening until the 1960s.

Beginner Great Lake surfers should head to Park Point near Duluth, Minnesota. It’s not the easiest spot; the waves come fast and hard; but it does have a sand bottom — a blessing on your body when starting out.

Attitude-wise, like most surf communities, Great Lakes surfers prioritize respect for both nature and each other.

Great Lakes Surfing Equipment

In southern California, wetsuits are optional. In the northeast, they’re a must — as are gloves and boots.

And don’t neglect the car battery! Instead of relaxing on sun-kissed sands between rides, Great Lakes surfers hop into preheated cars to beat frostbite.

OK! So How Cold Does it Get Surfing on America’s Great Lakes?

Surfing the Great Lakes is a frigid experience. Temperatures regularly dip below freezing, and the wind makes things feel colder. Bottom line: it takes grit. But ask any surfer, and they’ll explain that all pain disappears when you ride a good wave. And when it’s over, your brain is focused on one thing only: catching the next!