Beginner’s guide to surfing in Ontario
Wind and weather patterns across the Great Lakes are powerful enough to create awesome waves, especially in the cooler months, from late summer to spring, when the cool air meets the warm water. And the water is deep enough to sustain consistent surfable conditions.
There’s also a bold coldwater surf community who embrace the chill and chase the winter waves on the Great Lakes in Ontario. If you’re ready to hang ten, here’s how to get in on the action.
Surfing hotspots include the breaks on Lake Huron from Station Beach in Kincardine, Lake Ontario swells from Ashbridges Bay in Toronto and Beachway Park in Burlington, as well as the mighty breakers, rollers and whitecaps of Lake Superior.
Whether you’re starting early in the season or practicing your pro moves on winter surf, you’ll need a wetsuit, gloves and booties. Wetsuits come in all kinds of designs. For cold water surfing, look for a steamer or full wetsuit which covers your entire body including ankles and wrists, and could even have a built-in hood. Made from neoprene, the thickness can range between 2mm to 9mm. Here are some surf shops that’ll set you up with all the gear, accessories, advice and lessons you’ll need to catch your first-ever Great Lakes waves.
From forecasting workshops to gear rentals and expert staff, Surf the Greats is a great place to start out as a new coldwater surfer. Founded by a lifelong surfer originally from Brazil, staff are super knowledgeable about surfing in Ontario, including when the waves start cresting on Lake Ontario, Erie and Huron, as well as Georgian Bay. Look to Surf the Greats for surf lessons. If you’re nervous about catching a wave, try their Flat Water Intro to Surf Clinic on a calm day, then hit the waves the next time they’re rolling into shore. You can even grab a coffee at this independent shop committed to making Ontario’s surf community all it can be.
Location: 250 Carlaw Avenue #101, Toronto
Surf Ontario has been supplying adrenaline seekers with all the surfing and SUPing gear you need since 2002, including boards and wetsuits. Ask about lessons to get you started. They also provide a handy Great Lakes Surf Report.
Location: 99 Sunrise Avenue, Toronto
Located in Kincardine by Station Beach on Lake Huron, this eco-friendly surf shop offers everything from wetsuit rentals to surfing lessons. With the aim of protecting the beautiful waters that create those sweet waves you’ll ride this shop is perfect for conservation-minded surfers. Certified instructors will help you get comfortable on your board before hitting the waves, with all necessary gear included with your lessons.
Location: 889 Queen Street, Kincardine
If you’ve already got your sea legs and ready to hit the waves, check out Jack n Jill’s Surf Shop in Sauble Beach for all your gear needs. They’re a clothing apparel and watersports shop right at the beach. Find the perfect board for your skill level, thick wetsuits to guard from the Great Lakes chill and plenty of other aquatic gear for any other adventures you have in mind. And check out the Sauble Beach themed apparel to bring home as a souvenir.
Location: 107 Main Street, Sauble Beach
If you’re ready for the powerful swells of Ontario’s freshwater ‘sea’, the mighty Lake Superior, head to Superior East Board Shop for all the gear you’ll need. They also supply stand-up paddle (SUP) and snowboarding equipment. Hours are by appointment only.
If wave surfing doesn’t provide enough of an adrenaline rush, check out the jet surfboards and electric surfboards available at SurfSkateFly in Gravenhurst. These new age surfboards are fitted with motors that make it possible to get that surfing feeling even when there aren’t any waves. The electric surfboards come with a handle so you don’t fall off and can guide the board wherever you wish. The low-impact motors are designed to let you chase waves without disturbing the inhabitants beneath the water. Rent one of these boards or buy right from SurfSkateFly – and take it out for a spin on nearby Lake Muskoka or Gull Lake.
Last updated: January 3, 2024