Deadly Temps, Ice Boulders and Blow-Holes: Surfing Georgian Bay in Winter

On January 9, 2015, the mean temperature was -9C. That’s a cold day. Some would argue that’s too cold for skiing. But for Jim Schorer, Josh Madryga and Aaron Phillips, the perfect conditions on Georgian Bay meant it was a day made for surfing.


Aaron Phillips paddling out. Mark O’Grady photo.

by Colin Field

Everyone thinks the Great Lakes surfer types are crazy. And for good reason. It felt dangerous watching them jump off the icy shoreline into the frothing icy waters of the Bay. The volatile, ever-moving liquid created blowholes and tossed around boulder sized chunks of rock-hard ice. It seemed unsafe. But these guys made it look easy. One couldn’t help but feel a little jealous of their passion. Of their dedication and determination.

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Jim Schorer. Colin Field photo.
Colin Field photo.


The volatile, ever-moving liquid created blowholes and tossed around boulder sized chunks of rock-hard ice. It seemed unsafe.”



For Georgian Bay to be surfable it takes the right kind of weather conditions; the wind needs to blow in the right direction for the right amount of time in the right spot. It’s an uncommon occurrence. But when it works, whether it’s raining, snowing or hailing, these guys drop everything to get out there.

Surfers say there’s something about riding a wave that non-surfers couldn’t understand. They’ll compare surfing to love. They’ll compare it to God. They’ll say you become one with nature. They’ll say you’ll truly be in the moment and every hour of suffering to get there was undoubtedly worth it.

And if that’s true, the real question is: Why weren’t more people out there on January 9, 2015?


Josh Madryga busting a lip. Colin Field photo.


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