You surf Lake Michigan? Oh come on, that’s not real surfing…


Before you become one of these people, allow us to educate you and then you can decide whether fresh water surfing is “real” or not. Its true that the average wave height on the coast of Lake Michigan is only 1-2 feet. Sure, the water temperature never exceeds 70. And sure, there is no tide schedule and the weather patterns are completely unpredictable. But this just makes surfing the glacier-formed beauty we call Lake Michigan a real commitment.


To truly enjoy his hobby, the Lake Michigan surfer must always remain prepared and vigilant; surfing the lake is not for the faint of heart. The Michigan surfer must be willing to endure hours in the water at temperatures usually no greater than 55. A full-bodied wetsuit is required to brave these temperatures, and believe us when we say they don’t run cheap. The Michigan Surfer must also be willing to face every kind of foul weather known to man. A good session out on the ole beauty is rarely unaccompanied by screaming winds and a barrage of rain, sleet, hail, snow, or any combination of the four. Large waves are not terribly common on the Great Lakes, so when they do come it’s always with a price: extreme weather. Lake Michigan surfers must always be following the forecast. There are no tides on Lake Michigan; each day is completely unpredictable; certainly not you’re ideal Hawaiian setting. When the weatherman says there is a storm coming from the West, most Michiganders hang their heads and stay indoors; but not Lake Michigan surfers. When a Michigan surfer hears a Large Wave/Small Craft Advisory blaring over the radio they don’t get disappointed, they light up like a child on Christmas. For a fresh water surfer, there is nothing better than a severe storm bringing double over-headers to the Western Michigan shore. For this reason, you will never meet a greater optimist than the Lake Michigan surfer.


Next time you think of Lake Michigan surfers, don’t picture us as guys out there paddling for a 2-foot wave on an average summer day. Picture us as the guys that get a gleam in their eye when a storm rolls through, picture us as the guys who dress up in a full body wetsuit, cap and all, to with stand the frigid temperatures, and lastly picture us as the guys who love life unsalted. Does that sound like real surfing to you?


Written by Connor Priest 5/4/15