What you need to know to surf the North Shore
Have you ever wished you could surf, but you live in the midwest? Well the information below should give you everything you need to know to start surfing our mighty Great Lakes fresh coasts.
Can you surf on the Great Lakes?
The short answer is Yes!
Difference between Great Lakes and ocean waves?
Ocean waves are primarily caused by offshore storms that then produce waves that ripple through the water and produce waves along the ocean shores. Waves on the Great lakes are caused by wind, often from storms as well, as it blows across the surface of the lake water.
Along the northwestern Lake Superior shore in Minnesota the best waves are typically produced from low-pressure storm systems that create northeasternly winds. As the winds switch to a northern or northwestern direction this helps smooth out the waves to produce great surfing waves. Most often these storm and wind patterns happen in late fall and winter.
What should I wear to surf in the Great Lakes? Is it cold?
- It definitely is cold. If surfing in Minnesota air temperature can get down into the negative double digits and water temperature of Lake Superior will get to the low 30s in winter, but thick wet or dry suits with hoods, gloves, and booties are worn to keep warm. Battery powered heater vests can also be used under the wetsuit to help with warmth. Check out The Great Lake Surfing Wetsuit Guide for a detailed guide on wetsuit options.
How do I know when conditions are good to surf?
Below are some of the online tools you can use to find waves in the Great Lakes.
Forecast Wind and Waves
- Great Lakes Surf Forecasting Tools
- NOAA - Wave Height - NOAA Wave Height chart provides data on wave height, direction, and intensity.
- Wind Forecasting - MagicSeaweed, iWindsurf, Great Lakes Coastal Forecasting System (GLCFS), and Sailflow
Current Water Temperatures
- Coastwatch - Check current water temperatures for each of the Great Lakes
The best spots for wave breaks are typically found along shorelines where there are points, bays, or coves or where there are piers or break walls along the shore.
- Best Surf Spots on the Great Lakes Map
- Stoney Point - Along the Minnesota North Shore between Duluth and Two Harbors
- The deep water offshore of Stoney Point allows swells to come into the shore unimpeded making great surf conditions with larger waves.
- Park Point - Duluth, MN
- Great spot for beginning surfers.
- Lester River - Duluth, MN
- The mouth of the Lester River can have point break surfing if there are the right wind conditions.
- Other various locations along the Minnesota north shore
- Marquette Beach - Grand Haven, Michigan
- South Pier - Grand Haven, Michigan
- Lake Erie (Canadian Side)
- Niagara River mouth - Near Toronto on Lake Ontario
Where can I learn to surf?
- University of Minnesota Duluth’s Recreational Sports Outdoor Program offers surfing instruction in Duluth, Minnesota.
Where can I find other sweet surfers to ride with?
Where can I buy rad surf gear?
- Toronto - Surf the Greats
- Surf shop in Toronto, Canada celebrating coldwater surfing and supporting surfers from coast to coast and every river and lake in between. An inclusive community hub for Great Lake surfers, paddlers, sailors, swimmers and your reliable source for surfboards, SUPs, wetsuits, swimwear, apparel and good vibes.
- Toronto - Surf Ontario
- St. Joseph and Buffalo, Michigan - Third Coast Surf Shop
- Duluth, MN - Back Alley Duluth
- Milwaukee, WI - Lake Effect
Instagram accounts to follow for surfing the Great Lakes.