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Costa Rican surfer surfs the Great Lakes

This is Manuel Cespedes, our friend and surf instructor and owner of Young Vision Surf School in Montezuma, Costa Rica. He gave up a few weeks at home in a hot tropical climate to come and try surfing the Great Lakes in Ontario, Canada. He has never put on a wetsuit, let alone surfed in the current Ontario fall temperatures; water - 12°C (53°F); air - 5°C (41°F). He is super stoked and a little nervous, mostly about the cold factor and freshwater's lower density. No extra bounce here.

Surf on the Great Lakes by Nat Kuleba

Before the paddle out, Manuel learns to suss out the conditions of high winds and sporadic lake waves with a supportive group of friends, and avid Great Lake surfers. To us, it's a pretty nice day out - not too cold, kind of warm actually, no snow or ice. Score!

Surf the Great Lakes by Nat Kuleba

Larry Cavero heads out first to the overhead barreling lake waves at a remote point break, in an undisclosed location on the Georgian Bay.

Surf on the Great Lakes by Nat Kuleba

Manuel it's your turn, vamos! Now is the moment that he gets to feel the cold water seep into the cracks of his ankles, where booties meet suit, for the first time. Mmmmm, best feeling ever.

Surf on the Great Lakes by Nat Kuleba

Larry Cavero flying high!

Surf on the Great Lakes by Nat Kuleba

It was such an amazing day with endless open walls of green. One of the best we've seen on the lakes so far this year, and it's just the beginning of the season.

Surf on the Great Lakes by Nat Kuleba

And he's off on his first wave! 

Surf the Great Lakes by Nat Kuleba

Look at that face, seriously. He came out to chat for a minute before he went back in to rip up some low density freshwater. He said "My feet are numb, is that normal?" I was like, "Are you sure they are numb, can you feel them? Maybe just cold?" Yep, he agreed - just cold, going back for more!

Surf on the Great Lakes by Nat Kuleba

Josh Madryga, *no caption necessary.

Surf on the Great Lakes by Nat Kuleba

'Costa Rican goes on cold freshwater surf trip to Canada', this has to be a first? Manuel, you rock. Look at him rip in his new suit of armour.

Surf the Great Lakes by Nat Kuleba

We live in a vast country with endless surf and hardly any people. It may be cold, but we definitely hit the jackpot. 

Surf the Great Lakes by Nat Kuleba

The day just got better and better, and yes - "On days like this we must surf"

Surf on the Great Lakes by Nat Kuleba

This won't be the last time the lakes will see Manuel, and that is a compliment.

Surf on the Great Lakes by Nat Kuleba

He hashed out his experience with his completely frozen and stoked face while barely being able to speak. He finished his session just before everyone else and ended up alone in the parking lot panicking, while trying to remove his wetsuit.  A parks maintenance staff saw him and thought something really bad was happening, then proceeded to help him take it off! The wetsuit was in a ball, inside-out, covered in grass and gravel on the parking lot ground when I turned up. It looked like he tried to kill it. And of course, this did not stop Manuel from being totally pumped for the next swell on Thursday.

Surf on the Great Lakes by Nat Kuleba

This was a day none of us, including Manuel, will ever forget. We're so happy to welcome him here and share our waves with him, as he does with us when we visit down south.

Surf on the Great Lakes by Nat Kuleba

Pura Vida, Great Lakes.

Words and photographs by Surf the Greats Ambassador Nat Kuleba.


1 comment

  • Great Manuel at the Grat Lakes. Is really nice
    to see him on the cold waves having fun.

    Alex Steller

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