Surfer’s Voice is an exploration of Canadian surf culture through the stories, waves and photos of real Canadian surfers; the pros, groms, beginners, and seasoned vets and wave sliders that can be found from coast to coast, and hidden on every lake, river, and ripple to be found in our vast and beautiful part of this planet.
For this edition of Surfer’s Voice we spoke with professional wakeboarder, Collingwood lake surfer, boardsport and outdoor enthusiast Erika Langman, about the crossover between boardsports, what drives her to get her stoke on, and the magic to be found in paddling your guts out and dropping down a moving chunk of natural liquid energy.
Where are you from?
I live in Collingwood, Ontario. I grew up in Orangeville, Ontario.
Favourite local break?
Pumphouse on a WNW clean up day with all my friends.
Favourite break in the world?
Tough one! Can I narrow it down to continents? In South America: Bermejo,Peru, in Europe: Peniche, Portugal, in Oz: Yamba, NSW, Asia: Kenting, Taiwan, North America, OBX, NC, Central America: Santa Teresa, Costa Rica. I have yet to explore Africa!
How did you first get into surfing?
I was a professional wakeboarder for over 20 years and spent a ton of time travelling the world for events and training. Wakeboard events would usually take place in warm countries with close proximity to surf, and my wake friends started taking me to local beaches when we weren’t riding. I HATED it at first! It was so frustrating getting pummelled by waves, and the waves themselves were completely inconsistent in comparison to the perfectly shaped wake that is created behind the boat. Mostly I struggled with my short-fused impatience levels waiting for waves, or paddling at the wrong time.
As time always tells, fast track 15 years later I now have a profound respect for this sport, I’d take waves over wakes any day of the week!
Do you find any crossover between boardsports?
There are some similarities for sure — the feeling of losing your stomach to the floor with adrenaline, constant progression, amazing friends and community. I do however feel that surfing and wakeboarding are very different!
Wakeboarding is all about explosive power, going big, going upside down, and hitting a consistent wake or feature that is for the most part always the same shape. Typically you ride hard for a very short period of time.
Surfing I find is far more relaxed, is all about managing patience, respect for the power of water and nature that surrounds it, the endless, never-satisfied search for the next wave, and working hard to have the endurance needed to ride that wave when it finally comes.
As a wakeboarder and surfer how do you feel about wakesurfing?
If you asked me this question ten years ago, I would have said it was a waste of gas. I never had my own wakeboard boat so I was always bumming rides off friends. Because I was in 'training mode' so to speak, I'd use every spare chance I could get behind a boat to wakeboard.
Now, I do see the appeal. It's a low impact sport that can be done at pretty much any age based on physical ability levels—my parent's group of retirees all do it at the cottage—and there's nothing like being on a fancy boat with your friends.
For me, however, it is bittersweet. With wakesurfing came the evolution of 'massive' wake technology, pushing the cost of wakeboard boats to astronomical levels. It's become something I almost feel guilty doing knowing how most of the world will never have an opportunity to try it. Surfing is far more affordable and accessible, and far more gratifying when you catch that clean wave for the first time without the aid of a rope and manufactured wave.
What does your full quiver look like? I’m talking surf, wake, snow, skate, whatever toys you’ve got…
OMG it’s OUT OF CONTROL. I have a ‘She Shed’ that is completely overflowing with 10+ wakeboards, 5+ snowboards, 4 surfboards, Paddleboard, 3 bikes, 3 kites, 10+ pairs of xc skis, longboard and all the accessories. And that’s just in Collingwood. The Langman Island cottage has its own shed, hahaha—I don’t have a problem right!?
Why do you think you are drawn to surfing and boardsports?
A major part of it is community! My closest friends are all either wakeboard, snowboard, mountain bike or surf. It’s also that lifestyle balance we all desperately need as a fundamental part of our overall well being. I call it my daily dose of ‘blue’—or if there are no waves its my daily dose of ‘green’ for biking/hiking, or ‘pow’ in the winter.
How would you describe the surf scene on Georgian Bay and in Ontario in general?
Collingwood is the mecca of all things outdoor in Ontario, and the community here really shows that. We have a ‘Crazy Kooks’ Whatsapp group that keeps us all informed on when and where the waves are breaking. The ‘locals’ vibe here is extremely passionate and welcoming of all newcomers. Also we are a wee bit insane—it’ll be -10C in February with 25+ knots onshore gusting wind and you will still see 20+ surfers out in the bay.
You have been involved in She Shreds, Surf The Greats’ celebration of women in boardsports. For a long time the surf breaks on the lakes were very male dominated, have you seen any changes in the lineup through your journey as a freshwater surfer?
It’s definitely still very much male dominated, but I have definitely seen a pick up of ladies in the water. I used to be the only one 5 years ago, now we have a solid crew local ladies, most whom are far more hardcore than me! I’ve also noticed winter surf gear for women is starting to see more variety. For a longtime you couldn’t find a hooded 5/4 suit anywhere, now you are seeing a few 6/5/4s available for women.
Can you share any memories from your favourite waves or sessions?
We had a glass up session one evening at Pumphouse after a few windless weeks. There was a group of us catching green wave after green wave, watching the sunset. There was a full moon at the time, and we were all so stoked we just started howling. It lasted for at least 5 minutes, a crazy group of surfers howling like a pack of wolves. Magic!
What is the top spot on your dream surf list?
I’m so lucky that I’ve had so many incredible experiences already all over the world that I don’t feel like I’m held back with the latest COVID-19 travel restrictions. For now I am having lots of fun finding new spots locally, but domestically, Lake Superior and Newfoundland are high on my list.
Do you think there is something unique about being a Canadian surfer? Is there something distinct about Canadian surf culture?
I’m going one step further to say there is something very unique about being a Canadian Great Lake Surfer. We are tough, we are grateful, and we are welcoming of all. I remember being in Australia and everyone called me a crazy Canuck, shook their head and said ‘Aye mate that’s the kookiest shit I’ve ever seen’. Maybe it is, but I’ll take what I can get!
The rise of coldwater surfing, social media, and surfing in the now deferred Summer Olympics has brought Canadian surfing, and surf in general to a much wider audience. Do you have any visions for the future of surfing in Canada and on the lakes?
I was in Peru during the Pan Am Games to see the inauguration of Surfing to major games! It was SO cool, and the Canadians absolutely crushed it.
As for pick up, we are already seeing it happen. The shocker for most was finding out that surfing in Ontario is actually accessible, and right in most of our backyards. I remember finding out 7 years ago thinking, WTF are you serious?! I can surf here?!
The more exposure and stories shared by the local community, the more it’s going to grow. Canada isn’t new to boardsports, they have been around now for 40+ years with snowboarding, windsurfing, skateboarding etc. We have the space to make it happen, to be honest we have only scratched the surface of finding surf spots on the lakes.
How do you spend your time when you are not on a board?
Outside of my day job as the Mountain Event Manager at Blue Mountain, Mountain biking, hiking, snowboarding, skiing, hanging up north at my cottage, socializing with friends and chilling with my boyfriend.
Does your life as a surfer affect your ‘mundane’ life on dry land?
No such thing as a ‘mundane’ life on dry land. If you feel that way, pick up mountain biking or snowboarding! Frig it YOLO! (As a good friend of mine would often say).
Do you have any additional words you would like to share with groms, or beginners of any age getting into surfing?
Getting worked and managing your patience is SO HARD sometimes, but trust me, wait it out, keep paddling, persevere and you will learn to love every minute of the surf experience!
Connect with Erika on Instagram.
We're all roomies on this ball of water and dirt.. Find him on Instagram.