With surf season approaching on the Great Lakes, you may be spending a lot more time checking the surf reports for incoming lake swells. But, given our, shall we say, unique surf season, there are a number of ways you can prepare yourself so that you’re ready to face the elements, linked into the changing conditions on the lakes, and fully equipped to catch as many fall and winter waves as possible when the surf starts rolling onto our freshwater shores. So, how do prepare you and your quiver for the upcoming season? It’s easy. All you need to do is follow a few of the steps outlined below, get yourself ready, and spend the rest of your time getting stoked. Here we go:
Grab a New Wetsuit, Booties, Gloves and a Hood
If you’ve never surfed on the lakes before in the fall or winter months, just be aware of one thing: the water can get pretty cold. Ice cold, in fact. This means that you will need a wetsuit to even consider stepping into the water. Different water temperatures call for different suits. If you’re planning to surf in the fall, you can most likely get away with a 4/3 mm suit. If you’re planning on pushing your season into the winter months, you’ll need to up your game to a 5/4 mm or 6/5 mm to keep your body toasty while the icey waves rush past you. Without one, you’ll be quickly blitzing back to your car and driving towards the nearest Tim Hortons for a hot coffee.
While you’re at it, check out some booties, gloves and hoods. Though these aren’t necessary during the fall (depending on the temperature), they will become more and more necessary the further into the season you get, as lake temperatures will continue to drop. Take it from me, the best way to keep yourself warm in cold water is to keep your extremities warm. So, do yourself a favour and keep covered, and extend your sessions!
Ensure You’ve Got the Right Wax
As the temperatures in the lake start to decrease, the effectiveness of your summer surf wax will start to decrease as well. This is because surf waxes are designed for specific water temperatures, which means that your warm water wax won't fly during the surf season. That’s because warm water wax tends to become hard once the cold water hits it, so you won’t have much (if any) grip when you’re trying to shred those winter waves. Keep your eyes peeled on the water temperatures when you check for incoming swells. Then go out and grab yourself a new stick of the cold water stuff. It’s cheap, and it smells good, too.
Repair Any Knicks and Dings on Your Board
The weeks and months leading up to surf season are also a good time to check your board(s) out to see if they’ve sustained any damage over the previous year of surfing. You definitely don’t want to start hitting the surf season hard, and then realize too late that your board has a huge gash in it. Doing a quick once over of your quiver will save you time, and ultimately money later, as you will be able to repair any major problems before they get worse. If you’re handy and know how to fix surfboards, then do it yourself on a weekend with a beer by your side. If you’re like me and would probably mess up the repair job, bring it by the shop we can get it fixed. Either way, get those dings taken care of before the waves start crashing in.
While you’re at it, make sure all of your other equipment, such as leashes, fins, roof racks, straps, etc., are all in good working order. You don’t want to be scrambling to replace components when you’re trying to head out to the beach.
Attend a Wave Forecasting Workshop
Lastly, one of the best ways to prepare for surf season is to attend a forecasting workshop. The conditions needed for waves to roll in on the Great Lakes are a little different than those needed on the oceans. The workshop runs you through the science behind wave formations on the ocean and on the Great Lakes, how to understand weather maps and charts, and how to use online tools and apps to forecast waves. The course also provides you with an introduction to the most established surf spots, the differences in conditions for each season, and an overview of basic surfing etiquette and safety. If you’re new to Great Lake surfing, check out one of the forecasting workshops. You’ll have a great day in the shop, and you won't miss a swell this surf season.
Join a Carver Clinic
A carver skateboard was designed to replicate the movement of surfing on the land — and that’s exactly what it does. This means that you can simulate the motion and feeling of riding and carving a wave without actually needing any waves. All you need is your carver board, the power of your feet, and a bit of open roadway, and you can cruise along just like you would on a surfboard. Better yet, find yourself an outdoor hockey rink and cruise around safely until your legs can’t handle it anymore. Your surfing season will thank you because this, of course, is an incredible way to improve your surfing when there is no surf. Why, you ask? Because you end up using the exact same muscles to balance yourself and
maneuver on a carver as you would when you’re shredding a wave. And, since the movement between surfing and carver skating is so similar, you’ll be able to practice some key surf maneuvers, such as cutbacks, bottom turns, snaps, and nose riding. Join Surf the Greats next Carver Surfskate sessions now.
So, if you’re getting stoked for surf season on the Great Lakes, get yourself prepared early so that you can make the most of every swell. Grab yourself a new wetsuit if needed, scoop up the proper wax and ensure your quiver is ready to go. And, while you’re at it, head into the shop to buy / sell some gear and learn how to make the most of your season. See you out on the waves.
Words by Trent Ogilvie