Six Thrilling Water Sports to do this Summer

Life in Michigan revolves around amazing bodies of water – from the picturesque Lake Huron to the enchanting Bond Falls – you don’t have to go far to hit the waves. Here’s a list of six thrilling water sports for you to do this summer. 

Lake Superior

Lake Superior. Photo Courtesy of michigan.org.

1. Bodyboarding – For a perfect weekend beach activity, catch a wave and have some fun in the sun! If you need a board, have no fear – there are many options around the state for equipment rentals, like Sleeping Bear Surf and Kayak. Absorb the sunshine and feel the water splash over your shoulders as you ride waves on your belly. All you need is a body board or “boogie board,” a pair of fins and a thrill-seeking attitude.

2. Jet Skiing – If you have a need for speed, then hoping on a jet ski is for you. Michigan offers dozens of gorgeous waterfronts for you to jump across the waves during your summer adventure.

3. Kayaking – Navigate swift moving rivers and lakes in a kayak this summer. Kayaking allows you to access remote destinations and brings you closer to nature. Far and wide, there are many lakes across the state that offers rentals.

Photo Courtesty of Todd & Brad Reed Photography.

Kayaking in Ludington, Mich. Photo Courtesy of Todd & Brad Reed Photography.

4. Scuba Diving – Explore the wonders of the underwater world through scuba diving. Stare a fish in the eyes and feel the stir of the water as you take the plunge this summer. If you’re looking to explore the depths of the great lakes, try Four Fathoms Diving or Thunder Bay Scuba!

5. Parasailing – This high-flying experience is the thrill of a lifetime. Take in the sights of your surroundings as a giant parachute sends you soaring hundreds of feet above the water.

Photo Courtesy of Mackinac Parasailing.

Parasailing on Lake Huron. Photo Courtesy of Mackinac Parasailing.

6. Tubing – Getting pulled by a high-speed boat and flung around by waves could be the best part of your summer. Chances are you’ll go airborne, but don’t worry, the big splashes make for big fun. Need a rental? Look no further than Holland Water Sports.

What are some of your favorite water sports to enjoy in Pure Michigan? Let us know below!

Out On the Water in Traverse City

Maybe it was his landlubberly upbringing, but it took writer Mike Norton quite a while to stop thinking of the water as “forbidden territory” and start thinking of it as a big blue playground. Now, after 35 years as a resident of Traverse City, he loves to get out on Grand Traverse Bay in almost any way he can.

I first came to Traverse City to be near the water. That’s not surprising, I guess; so do thousands of other people.

Water, after all, is what defines this place. It’s the beautiful backdrop for our family photos, the sparkling blue boundary to our beaches, the ever-changing spectacle that mesmerizes us at sunrise and sunset and all the hours in between.

Pretty? Of course it is. But beauty is really only half the story — because I’ve learned that once you venture out on its shimmering surface, the water becomes more than part of the scenery. It becomes a highway to adventure.

With more than 150 inland lakes and hundreds of miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, Traverse City has always attracted active vacationers who enjoy interacting with water – whether that means sailing, boating, kayaking, fishing, or high-speed sports from waterskiing to kiteboarding. The reason?  Grand Traverse Bay, a two-pronged “freshwater fjord” that’s sheltered on three sides from the wind and waves that can make the open waters of Lake Michigan too intimidating for many novices.

Kayaking Lake Michigan near the Sleeping Bear Dunes

Probably the quickest way to get out on the water is in a canoe or kayak. Long a favorite canoe destination, the area has become hugely popular with kayakers in recent years. Today almost every coastal community in the Traverse City area has at least one canoe/kayak rental outlet, and there are several full-service outfitters who offer instruction and guiding services. (And take it from me, it doesn’t take long to learn!)

I love paddling effortlessly down a tree-shaded river without a care in the world, or heading out along the beach in a sturdy kayak. Most of our rivers are tame enough for novice paddlers, with just enough current to keep things interesting, and today’s kayaks are made for people of every age and aptitude. Just pack some sunscreen and a shore lunch — and don’t forget your camera!

Jet-skiing on Grand Traverse Bay

For those who are looking for something a bit different, stand-up paddleboarding is one of the recent crazes on our lakes and harbors. Instead of sitting on a board, you stand up – getting great views of your surroundings, including the watery depths beneath your feet! SUP’ing is great fun, wonderful exercise, and easy to learn, and there are plenty of places to rent a board if you don’t already own one.

As long as we’re on the subject of boards, Traverse City has long been a major destination for kiteboarding, where you harness the wind to pull you across the water on a small surfboard. This takes some instruction– which can fortunately be acquired in a few hours – but using a special kite and a control harness, you can really move, skimming across the lake and launching 30-foot jumps over the waves!

There are easier ways to speed across the water of course. Jet skis and other personal watercraft can be rented at several location around Traverse City – and although they’re faster than ever, they’re a far cry from the noisy, smelly, uncomfortable machines of the past. Today’s personal watercraft are actually more like small speedboats, a useful way to get from one place to another. (And yes, to have a lot of fun buzzing up and down the shore.)

Sailboats on Grand Traverse Bay

Of course, the proliferation of all these boards and machines doesn’t mean there aren’t still lots of regular boats on the water in Traverse City. Flocks of sailboats are always winging up and down the Bay in breezy weather, and there are plenty of powerboats, too – usually towing water-skiers or heading out to do a little fishing. If fishing is your private passion, this is the perfect place – whether it’s battling a high-powered salmon from the deck of a charter boat or outwitting the wily walleye and smallmouth bass of our inland lakes.

And for those who prefer their excitement a little more organized, how about a sunset cruise in a 19th-century “tall ship” or an exhilarating ride over the waves aboard a giant catamaran?

Undoubtedly, the most easily recognized vessel in the Traverse City fleet is the Tall Ship Manitou, a 114-foot, 62-passenger schooner that offers three two-hour cruises across the bay each day of the week, as well as a number of specialty cruises (a Microbrew & Pizza Cruise, a Wine Tasting Cruise, musical cruises and “ice cream sails”). And now the Manitou has a little brother, the cutter Scout, that’s available for small-group cruises of up to six people.

An even livelier sailing experience can be had aboard the Nauti-Cat, a 47-foot catamaran based near the mouth of the Boardman River. Measuring 29 feet from side to side, it offers up to four cruises per day during the summer months, often cruising as fast as 14 knots on a breezy day.

Can you tell how eager I am to get back out on the water?

Mike Norton, a native of Grand Rapids, spent 25 years as newspaper writer and columnist before starting a second career as media relations director at the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau. An avid kayaker and an enthusiastic (if somewhat clumsy) small-boat sailor, he lives in the village of Old Mission.

Just Beyond the Blue

Kayaking in Michigan's Green Waters

Kayaking in Michigan's Green Waters

Sue Beth Balash shares her “Pure Michigan Moment,” a kayak trip in North Bar Lake near Empire, where she searched for the perfect blue so often depicted in her students’ classroom drawings of Michigan waters. If you are interested in trying kayaking out for yourself, check out our beginners guide to kayaking.

I stand next to my kayak with my feet firmly planted in the sand encircling North Bar Lake and for a fleeting moment, I think of my third-grade class.

I wonder why children always reach for the bluest markers, crayons or color pencils when they fill in the waters on their Michigan maps, because not a single drop of it looks blue.

Continue reading