We all crave those perfect days on the water when the waves are rolling in one after another, hour after hour. But, as lake surfers, we all know too well the feeling of the inevitable flat day (or should I say days). So, aside from packing up all of your belongings, hopping on a plane, and starting a new life near the ocean, what is there to do as a surfer around these parts when there is absolutely no surf? Well, as it turns, there’s quite a few things both in and out of the water to keep you stoked and in a surfing mindset. So, to get you started, we’ve listed our ten favourites here to help you create some happy waves on even the flattest days:
Stand-up Paddleboarding (SUP)
Unlike kayaking and canoeing, stand-up paddleboarding, as the name suggests, actually allows you to stand up on a board in the water, just like surfing. This means that you can keep the surfing vibes going, even on the flattest days by simply paddling around your local beach. The great part about stand-up paddleboarding, too, is that it’s the perfect vessel for exploration. Since you move across the water by, well, paddling instead of relying on waves, you can take the board up and down the coastline, weave it between islands, and even unleash it on tiny lakes, rivers and ponds. They also make inflatable ones now that feel exactly like the real deal when they’re full of air, except they’re extremely portable when they’re deflated.
Another great way to feel like you’re riding a surfboard when there’s no waves is to hop on a carver skateboard. These skateboards were literally designed to replicate the movement of surfing on land. They also help improve your leg and core strength, as well as your balance, for surfing specifically, which will help your sessions out a lot when you’re actually back out on the water. If you want to give a carver skateboard a ride to see what it’s all about, check out our Carver Sessions this summer.
The flow and movements in both surfing and yoga share a lot of similarities. Spending a little time on the yoga mat can not only help calm your mind, restore your focus, and improve your breathing and flexibility, it can also give you some much needed rest and relaxation for your body so that it’s ready to go the next time the waves are pumping in on the Great Lakes. There are tons of online resources for yoga practices, and most cities and towns have a healthy supply of yoga studios to get you well on your way.
This one requires a boat (or a wealthy friend with a boat) to make happen, but it is definitely one of the truest ways to surf when there is no surf. Wakeboard boats with inboard motors can create a small surf wave in the boat’s wake when there is enough ballast at the back of the boat. This ballast is typically created by special water holding tanks built into the boat, or by filling water bags and positioning them towards the back of the boat. The wake’s wave then pops up higher than normal because of how much weight there is pressing down on the water. The result is a decent surf wave that you can literally ride, without a tow rope, behind the boat until you wipe out. Now all you need to do is figure out how to convince your friend to let you go up to their cottage this weekend.
Clean the Lakes
The Great Lakes, especially Lake Ontario, have been subjected to pollution for years. The very waters that we hope for waves on are struggling every day to stay clean. So why not help out with a shore line clean up on one of your days off? The lake and community will thank you, and the water will be a little bit cleaner the next time you ride some waves. To get involved, check out our monthly SUP Meet-up Clean-Up event. It’ll get you out on the water, and making a difference.
If you want to have some low key time when there’s no waves, why not read some books about surfing to keep you stoked. Some of my favourites include Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan, Surf is Where You Find It by Gerry Lopez, and Kook: What Surfing Taught Me About Love, Life, and Catching the Perfect Wave by Peter Heller. There is no short supply of great surfing and surfing-inspired books however.
Plan a Surf Trip
There’s no better way to curb flat day blues (or any blues, for that matter) than planning a trip. And the best trips (in my opinion) are the ones that involve surfing. So, on those less than ideal days on the water, grab your computer, research some surf spots you want to go to and start planning. Maybe even book a flight if you’re really feeling bummed. The plus side with this activity too is that, on the next flat day, you can always return to the planning process and never lose sight of those endless, ocean waves.
Learn How to Forecast Waves
The best way to find out when more waves are coming on flat days? Take a wave forecasting class at the shop. In the workshop, you will learn the science behind wave formation on the lakes, understand weather maps and charts, and find out where you can forecast waves online and through apps. You’ll also gain an understanding of basic surfing etiquette, as well as basic safety and self-rescue tools. The worst case scenario? You’ll at least have a lot more fun checking for waves on the lakes every day — even if the long term forecast says flat.
Play 'True Surf' on Your Phone
I’m not one to typically advocate playing games on your phone, but, if you’re looking for a quick way to actually do some surfing (in the digital world) when there aren’t any waves, download True Surf on your iPhone. True Surf is a free surf game that literally lets you ride endless waves all day on your phone’s screen. All you have to do is tap on the screen when you’re ready to pop up, and then slide your finger up and down the screen to carve across the waves. It may just be a mind-numbing iPhone game, but hey, it’s still surfing. And, for what it’s worth, it’s a fairly authentic experience.
Engage with the Community
There’s no better time to engage with your surf community than when there’s no waves on the lake. Stop by your community surf shop to grab some wax, a new hat, or even a new board for your quiver. Alternatively, pop by for an event, a class, or even just a coffee to hangout and chat about surfing. The shop’s always looking to bring the community together and keep the surfing vibes alive, and that’s especially true on days when there’s no surf in sight!
So, when the waves are flat on the lakes, there’s no need to be sad. There are tons of options to keep the stoke alive, whether you’re riding stand-up paddleboards or wakesurfs in the water, or ripping a carver skateboard or simply reading a surf book on the land. No matter what, just know that, even during the longest flat spells, the waves will always find their way back.
Words by Trent Ogilvie.
Trent Ogilvie is a published writer, award-winning photographer, business development professional, entrepreneur and adventurer. He graduated from the University of Toronto with a specialization in English Literature and a minor in Professional Writing. Aside from his extensive explorations in Canada, Trent has also surfed throughout Central America, traversed through the turquoise seas and islands of the Caribbean, and explored the tropical jungles of South East Asia. He’s also seen a crocodile or two along the way. Find him on Instagram.