Surfing in Ontario 101

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Many are surprised to learn you can surf on the Great Lakes, but more and more people are getting into it. Sure it isn’t Malibu, and you won’t get barrelled for days, but surfing is surfing; it’s fun no matter where you are or what kind of waves you’re on.

Getting Started
If you’ve never surfed before than you’ll probably want to take a lesson. Not the easiest thing to do in Ontario as weather is a major contributor to good waves. Scheduling a lesson may be tricky. But Mike Sandusky at surfontario.ca has been teaching surfing here since 2002 and has a good system worked out: If you sign up for lessons, you’ll get a 24 hour notice on when and where to be. He teaches lessons primarily at Ashbridges Bay and Bond Head on Lake Ontario, Wyldewood Beach and Port Stanley on Lake Eerie and Bayfield and Kincardine on Lake Huron.
James Carrick also teaches out of Sauble Beach and can be reached at the Cabana Beach House.

The Weather
Few people watch the weather like surfers. And the really dedicated guys have jobs they can abandon at the first sign of waves. While we can’t all be so hardcore about it, you’ll still need to pay attention to get in some surf days. Waves on the Great Lakes are created by wind. A strong onshore wind needs to blow for 18-24 hours before waves really develop. Sites like the National Data Buoy Centre give real time buoy readings for the Great Lakes. Sites like windfinder.com also allow you to watch the wind. There are also apps for these so you can keep track on your way to the break. If this all sounds like too much work for you, then just stay active on sites like Great Lakes Surfers. You’ll see a spike in activity when the waves are gathering… just follow the clues as to where they are.
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The Breaks
The Great Lakes have over 17,000 kilometres of shoreline, meaning there is lots of opportunity to find surf breaks. But surfers are a cagey bunch: they don’t love sharing locations with everyone, in the hopes they can save spots and waves for themselves. It also makes giving you a list of breaks right here a serious faux pas. A couple of the well-known spots are definitely Ashbridges Bay in Toronto, Beachway Park in Burlington and Station Beach in Kincardine. These spots have been mainstays of the surf scene for years. But with a little research and talking to people at surf shops, you’ll soon be on your way to finding more waves.
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The Gear
If you’re looking to buy gear, then Boardsports and Silent Sports are the biggest surf retailers in Ontario for sure. They’ll also be able to give you great advice on board size, shape and design. And they can order stuff in for you.
Again sites dedicated to the Great Lakes surf scene will offer opportunities to buy used equipment.

The Addiction
While Ontario’s breaks rarely offer perfect waves, once you’re up and surfing, addiction may set in. If you find yourself suiting up in a 7mm wet suit in -10°C next November, it’s offical. You’re addicted. And if any of this article helped get you there, you’re welcome.
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