You Can Surf in the Great Lakes?

Yes, you can!

A wavy day on Lake Michigan

A powerful crescendo grew until the momentum became too much to contain and it ruptured with a thunderous crash. As I stood on the shore, I listened to wave after wave break in the vast body of water that spread from the tips of my toes all the way to the opposite horizon. For as long as I could remember, on days when rain clouds filled the sky and wind filled the air, I had stood on that shore and watched the waves crash. But this time was different. This time, the waves were inviting me to have an adventure. And so it began as I paddled out on my surfboard.

This was no trip to Hawaii or California or North Carolina. There were no sharks or jellyfish to look out for in the water. There was not a single palm tree on the beach in front of me. It was hardly the stereotypical surf trip, and I was not at all the stereotypical surfer: a native Midwesterner, prone to bright pink sunburns, and fond of cold, snowy winters. When I talked of my plans to surf, people laughed, questioned, or just refused to believe. But as for me, years of watching waves crash in the seemingly endless body of water made it seem perfectly natural to surf in the Great Lakes.

One summer, after watching a movie or two about surfing, I longed for that rush of adrenaline that every wave seemed to send its rider. To float across the water pushed by the swell seemed so empowering. Most people who want to surf would scout out a trip to California, but I decided to use the resources at hand. Lake Michigan was calling my name.

But where was I going to find a surfboard in the middle of Illinois? How would I learn to surf? The obstacles kept popping up, but I just kept charging through the obstacle course. I was doing dry land surf workouts by day and watching surf videos by night. Finally, my research led me to the town of New Buffalo, Michigan; there lay the Holy Grail of Midwest surfing, Third Coast Surf Shop. There it was, like a needle in a haystack, a surf shop in the Midwest. I decided that all I wanted for my sweet sixteen was to go surfing.

Soon enough, I was out in the water and I caught my first wave, which carried me back to the Lake Michigan shore. There I was, surfing, five hundred miles away from the nearest ocean. From then on, no matter how many you-can’t-surf-in-the-Great-Lakes comments I heard, the fact remained that I had done it. The Great Lakes are an incredible geological feature. They hold six quadrillion gallons of fresh water, the biggest supply on the planet. The Lakes are a Midwestern staple, providing breathtaking views and recreational activities such as swimming, boating, fishing, and kayaking. But, my advice to all you Midwesterners out there (and those of you who plan on traveling to the Midwest): rent a surfboard! It’s a whole new way to enjoy the Great Lakes!

Teresa Hull
Teresa Hull

Teresa is a 19 year old college student studying film. She has a lot of weird obsessions like bonsai trees, surfing, Route 66, the 1950s, and showtunes, to name a few. Expect articles about any of the aforementioned topics and more!

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You Can Surf in the Great Lakes?