I learned to surf on Lake Erie
People have been surfing on the Great Lakes since the early 1950's. But I had no idea until my boyfriend at the time Kevin came home and told me about some guy named Carl he met surfing at Hamburg Beach outside of Buffalo, NY during a snow storm. Kevin had just spent 6 weeks in Maui and learned to surf while over there. The next big wind day he grabbed his wetsuit and shortboard and headed to the spot he saw Carl surfing at and jumped in. The waves were not very good and I thought he looked foolish trying to catch these tiny waves on such a tiny board. With no success I told him he did a good job and was trying really hard. Later in the week Carl called us and asked if we wanted to go surf with him. When I first met Carl he seemed really cool and I thought this guy should be living in California. I told Carl I had never surfed before but I'd always wanted to after watching Blue Crush. He let me borrow a homemade longboard and we paddled out into Lake Erie. It was so awkward trying to find my balance on the surfboard. The next thing I new I was laying down looking toward shore as he began to tell me to paddle and then pushed me into my first wave. I popped up right away and could not believe that I was surfing! I was hooked from there! I bought a 9'0 longboard for Kevin and I from some fellow lake surfers.
We began Storm Chasing
Every time we would see strong winds coming from the SouthWest we would head up to Pleasant Beach, Canada on Point Abino. It might be the best wave spot on Lake Erie because it has the most fetch on a SW or WSW wind and the point is very exposed. The paddle out in big winds is rough and there is no break between sets. You just have to take a few on the head before you get out and line up your next wave. As Kevin and I were starting to progress in our surfing skills we started to want smaller boards so we could duck dive easier in the bigger waves. Carl started a Great Lake Surf Board Shaping Company called Honu Surf Co. Your not as buoyant in fresh water as you are in saltwater so his boards are perfect for catching fresh water waves. With his help we got to design a board! He made us a wide 7'4 Fun Board with a lot of rocker. It paddles out fast and I feel like I could literally catch any wave on that board!
Our surf season really begins in the Fall. The winds pick up and we start to get some bigger waves on the lake. Thats when owning a wetsuit really comes in handy and extends your surf season! Wetsuit Wearhouse has great deals on wetsuits especially if you buy out of season. My go to is a Roxy 4/3 mm I can pretty much wear it any time. Ive worn it in the summer and also during a blizzard. A 5mm is nice for the deep winters though. Kevin and I Surfed the November Blizzard back in 2014 and we saw 10 foot waves on the Lake! It was wild - we were surfing close to each other but couldn't s even see where the other one was. Kevin got lost somewhere down the beach after he got out of the water in the blizzard and finally found his way home. The video we made went viral and we made it on to CNN Headline news you can see the video and interview below.
Learning to surf on the Lake was challenging because not only are you dealing with constant waves coming in with not very many breaks, your always moving because of the strong currents so you have to fight to be in the right spot to catch the wave. Your battling harsh conditions strong winds and fridgid temps that take your breath away. When I first traveled to Maui Hawaii I was so excited to get on Ocean Waves. I was in awe the first time I saw the south side of Maui's break at Launiupoko. It was so glassy and the waves looked so perfect. My paddle out was unbelievable, I literally paddled around where the waves were breaking to get to the outside of where the sets were coming. It was so easy. I lined up in the perfect spot and saw a perfect wave coming right towards me. I turned around started paddling and felt the liftoff! As I came down the face of the wave I started to carve my board back up the face and turn back to make another drop! I had never done that before as I started to do it again I thought " I can't believe I can surf like this!" Because I was always battling harsh conditions I never felt like I had time on the wave to try these maneuvers. I was always just trying to hang on. Now that I learned how to carve on such a glassy fun wave I can do it on Lake waves now. Not as smooth as in Hawaii but its possible! I wanted more of a challenging wave so we headed to the North shore of Maui to Hookipa. I never had to battle it out with another person to catch a wave before. The Lake waves were always open and If you caught a party wave with someone else you were happy about it. So I was extremely timid at Hookipa and would always back off to let someone else catch the wave. I learned you had to be aggressive to surf that spot. And although its an incredible wave I really don't like the battle. I would much rather find a wave I can chill at with all my friends and cheer them on as I say "this ones all yours buddy!"
Sharing the stoke!
On the Great Lakes there are so many surf spots to check out! If your looking to get into Surfing on the Great Lakes there is a great event for women called Lake Surfista September 9th! Check it out!
Now my favorite thing to do is share this incredible sport with others at home and any time I travel. I get that same feeling of stoke, helping someone catch their first wave and make that drop as when I catch a wave. If your interested in learning to surf on Lake Erie we'd love to here from you!
Contact Kevin and I at http://www.superieadventures.com
Kevin and Christian are two athletes that love to travel. Follow their adventures as they explore the diverse places and activities they encounter around Western New York and beyond.