The whole point of starting the Greats Lakes Surfing Club at Lakehead University was to create a community for students who surf in Thunder Bay and the surrounding area. A group of us who had been surfing on the lake for about a year came up with the idea with the simple goal of receiving funding from the school that would go towards getting gear for the club that we would make available to all club members that wanted to learn how to surf, can’t afford their own gear, or simply don’t know where to start. We didn’t have any expectations for a surge in popularity when starting the club, but once word got out about what we were trying to do, so many people were on board. Students from the University and the college, as well as local residents were reaching out every day with inquiries about gear, conditions, where to start, how to get involved, and how they could help out. It was almost overwhelming at first, but the support and understanding of the community was unrivalled. Every time we posted something on Instagram, people would share it, our follower count would jump, and more people would message us with questions about how we could possibly be surfing in the middle of a snowstorm while still subtly hinting that they wanted in. It became clear to us very quickly that this was going to be bigger than we had first imagined, and we were going to have to make something happen.
Going into this school year we set goals that we wanted to reach. We wanted to raise a combined $1000 with the goal of purchasing 2 used wetsuits and 2 used boards for the club as well as give ourselves a head start towards purchasing more equipment as we continue to grow in the coming years. We figured this was going to be a daunting task to achieve due to the current state of the world, making it extra challenging to achieve our goals. Despite this adversity, we were able to reach our goals and even exceed them. With funding from the Lakehead University Student Union as well as our own fund raising and donations from community and club members, we were able to reach just over $1000 before the end of first semester. Looking back on it, it’s mind-blowing how much support we had and are continuing to receive on a daily basis.
This is where Surf the Greats came in. As soon as they heard what we were trying to achieve they wanted to be a part of it. An opportunity to help build and nurture a surfing community on the North Shore of Lake Superior—and specifically in Thunder Bay—was very aligned with their ethos and the reason they started the company. We were quickly in contact and they were eager to help in any way they could. Soon a partnership was born that was better than we ever could have hoped for. They helped us with the initial gear that we needed to get our members out on the water safely all season long. This alone has pushed us past our original goal, but they didn’t stop there. They have offered guidance and assistance on how we can continue growing our initiative and will be assisting us with surf safety and instructor courses to ensure the safety of our members. And as if that wasn’t enough, they hooked our members up with special perks as part of their sponsorship.
Despite all the difficulties of this past year, we are super happy to be able to boast all the successes of the club so far. In a perfect world, we would have liked things to go differently. We wanted to host an event this past fall, take a group to the Waasaashkaa gathering over in our neighbouring break in Terrace Bay—and, of course—get as many new people out on the water as possible. Although we might not have been able to do this, we did manage to build a strong base for our club to sit on, as well as get people stoked for what’s yet to come. As we are once again stuck in lock-down and the ice is making its way across the lake, all we can really do now is put our focus on what the future is going to bring us. We are more stoked than ever to continue to build our community and get out in that cold, clear, fresh water.
Words by Adam Breedon. Photographs by Anna Buske.
Adam Breedon is a student at Lakehead University, Thunder Bay campus, and is Co-founder of the Lakehead University Great Lakes Surfing Club. He is studying Outdoor Recreation and Concurrent Education. Originally from Markdale Ontario, he didn't learn to surf until moving to Thunder Bay and getting out on Lake Superior. He coaches freestyle skiing all winter, plants trees in the summer and surfs whenever there's waves in between. Future plans include becoming a highschool teacher and starting his own outdoor based school. Find him on Instagram.