Surfs Up

Surfing South HavenSo, you want to surf. You don’t need an ocean to enjoy this invigorating water sport. You just need waves--and Michigan is a great place to catch some smooth ones. Go ahead, take off, hang hills, catch the wave—our fresh water lakes await you. 

Yes, that’s right, you can surf on the Great Lakes and you won’t have to worry about sharks or gulping mouthfuls of salt. You don’t need an ocean to enjoy this invigorating water sport. You just need waves--and Michigan is a great place to catch some smooth ones.

People have been surfing off Lake Michigan for many years and some hearty souls surf the coldest and deepest of the Great Lakes, Lake Superior. This is a sport that works for most ages and diehard surfers say once you catch your first wave you’re hooked for life.

Head to Michigan’s southwestern corner and the Third Coast Surf Shop in St. Joseph to learn to curl 10. Wearing the correct wet suit for cold water temperatures and having the right gear is all important. Experienced surfers own at least four wetsuits in different thickness levels to be able to surf safely year round. 

Lessons are the best way to safely learn how to surf. Third Coast offers private and group lessons and the course covers every aspect of the sport including safety, equipment use, water and current awareness.  You’ll also learn how to paddle, lay, sit and stand on a surfboard. The shop also offers lessons for skimboarding (smaller boards and a different approach to surfing) and sandboarding – which is a great way to enjoy Michigan sand dunes. 

Sleeping Bear Surf & Kayak of Empire has been giving lessons and providing equipment to Lake Michigan surfers for more than ten years. The first freshwater surf shop in northern Michigan teaches surfing on the public beach in Empire, surrounded by the beauty of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Other recommended beaches are in Frankfort and Leland, and the best time of year to catch a wave in the Little Finger area of the state is from fall into early winter. Consult the Leelanau County webcams for conditions on the waves at Empire Beach.

The waves of Lake Superior can be awesome. Take advantage of the surf kicked up by the largest freshwater lake by learning the sport from those who know it best at Casualties Skate Snow Surf in Marquette. Rent your board and wetsuit and take a lesson at the Presque Isle beach. 

Traverse City’s Wet Mitten Surf Shop offers one of the largest selections of rentals of stand-up paddleboard, surfboard, skimboard and boggie boards in Michigan. The trendy shop also offers a large selection of Wet Mitten Surf Shop branded wear, accessories and other fun water toys.