It all started as a hashtag. It was 2014 and we had just been introduced to Great Lake surfing. We were driving home from Georgian Bay and were posting some photos from the session. This was early days on Instagram and so we knew we needed a good hashtag to go with the photos. After a bit of brainstorming we came up with #surfthegreats and uploaded the images. We never could have known then where this would all lead and where we would find ourselves today.
The last thing we ever wanted to do was start a surf business and become part of the surf industry. As much as we loved surfing — the predominant culture wasn’t anything we wanted to join. We’ve walked into surf shops around the world and knew we never quite fit in. Perhaps we weren’t local enough, or cool enough, or straight enough. While the explanation for this sense of exclusion can be difficult to identify, the feeling is undeniable. Wanting to belong, but knowing that you don’t quite qualify. The more we experienced it and discussed with others, the more we realized that lots of people didn’t think surfing was for them.
Perhaps not surprisingly, surfing in Canada felt different. It turns out that surfing in Canada is different because Canadians are different. Diversity and inclusivity are central national tenets and this extends into the water. In the line up — whether it is lakes, rivers or oceans — the language you speak, the colour of your skin, the shape of your body, or your religious beliefs are unimportant. We honour those who are truly indigenous to this land and celebrate those who have just arrived. Whether you rip on a shortboard, glide on a longboard, or cruise on a SUP matters little so long as you are out there. Surfing in this country is a little harder than warmer climates, but as with many things, it’s the hard that makes it good.
Video by: Mirror Image Media & Beechwood Productions
Additional footage by: David Kalinauskas, Jake Brenner, Keenan Bush, Luke Morsta & Tristan Lafontaine
Voiceover: Linzee Barclay
Quand nous pensons au surf, le Canada n’est probablement pas le premier pays qui nous vient en tête. Alors que nos eaux sont froides et nos hivers sont difficiles, nos cœurs sont chaleureux et notre wax est molle. Dans ce grand pays, on est chanceux d’être entouré de 3 océans — mais au Canada vous trouverez autant de surfeurs sur le bord de l’océan qu’au beau milieu du pays. Nos surfeurs sont des voyageurs des temps modernes, explorant constamment, ils savent que nos meilleures vagues restent à être découvert. Que ce soit par nos planches que nous surfons, par nos rivières infinies, lacs et océans, nous sommes tous différents. Ici, au Canada, on chérit nos différences dans l’eau comme à l’extérieur — parce que lorsque nous avons nos wetsuits à capuches, nous sommes tous les mêmes.
They say that the more you travel, the more you appreciate your own country. While many people have their first surfing experience abroad, more and more are catching their first wave on our home waters. Canadian surfers are demonstrating that surfing not only exists but is thriving in individual communities across the country. No longer relegated to coastal fishing towns and villages, Canadians are finding waves in every province and territory.
We’ve come a long way since that original hashtag. The events of this past year have provided many Canadians with the opportunity to better appreciate their immediate surroundings. As a country, we know that our best waves are yet to be found. We have an opportunity to shift the conversation within an industry that is increasingly receptive to change. While there is much work to be done, today we choose to celebrate how far we have come.
Antonio Lennert & Lucas Murnaghan
Co-founders, Surf the Greats