Ever since my first trip to California, I have been obsessed with surfing. I remember the feeling of catching my first wave and have been hooked ever since. I have been fortunate enough to surf in several locations while traveling including California, Portugal, and Thailand.  I have always dreamed of surfing in Canada though. I have long been planning a trip in my head to Tofino, British Columbia, and I also hope to one day surf in Halifax as well. But, I never imagined surfing could become a regular activity for me while I call Toronto home. Lucky for me, I was wrong…

I was first inspired by a video my girlfriend sent me that starts with the caption “IS TORONTO SURFING DOOMED“. Is Toronto surfing doomed? I didn’t even know it existed! This lead to more research where I learned that Toronto is actually a “surf city“. I learned t it is possible to surf downtown at Ashbridges Bay (AKA Woodbine Beach) and also at the Scarborough Bluffs. If you are willing to drive, in 3 hours you could find yourself on the other end of Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, Lake Huron, and  Georgian Bay. With the right conditions, any one of these bodies of water can produce surf. Toronto is actually a well-located surf city, who would have thought!

The more I learned, the more I became excited about the prospect of surfing the great lakes. Online there is a large community of people willing to share information and help each other out. I was able to find a used 7-foot surfboard on Kijiji, and I splurged on an expensive new 6mm wetsuit from Surf Ontario. I now had everything I needed to surf except the waves.

According to everything I have read, summer is the worst season for surfing in Toronto. Unlike ocean surfing where the waves are generated by wind, tide, and currents, lake waves are basically just formed by the wind. Opportunites in the summer to surf are fewer as the weather is typically milder. Every day I would impatiently visit lakeswell.com and the Great Lake Forecast website to try and figure out when the next opportunity would arise.

Finally, on July 9th, the forecasters were predicting Eastern winds of 20+ knots on Lake Erie, as well as 3+ foot waves. I was able to borrow a car, and I learned of a location at the North West tip of Lake Erie (Wyldewood Beach). When I arrived I sprinted out of my car and towards the beach. Although it was windy, the water was warm and the sun was out. Something that I imagine will be a very rare occurrence surfing the Great Lakes.

I spent several hours in the water paddling hard and catching a few short rides. The wave quality was not great, and I was able to get a handful or rides where I dropped down the face and the ride lasted longer than 5 seconds. Still, I was completely stoked. I never imagined I would be surfing on my own surfboard just hours away from home. After a short break, I spent another few hours in the water, continuing to catch the odd wave and loving every minute of it. The waves were not comparable to ocean quality, but it was enough for me.

After my first session surfing the Lakes, I could not wait to get back out again. I continued to diligently check the weather, and finally, after 1 month of waiting it looked like Saturday, August 5th was shaping up to be an epic day of surfing for great lake surfers. I posted on all the facebook groups trying to get more details about where the best spot would be. The waves were forecasted to big much bigger than before, and I really wanted to find the best place.

The morning of August 5th I decided that I would try Cobourg Pier. The drive seemed to take forever. I was brimming with nervous excitement and anticipation. What if the wind suddenly dies down? What if the waves are too big for me? What if I am going to the wrong spot?

Finally, I arrived in the Town of Cobourg. There was a festival that day so it was difficult to find a  parking space. Eventually, I parked at the Marina, about a ten-minute walk from the pier. A word of advice to others planning to surf here, you can actually park right on the pier (the only catch is you cannot leave your car unattended, surfing right beside your parked car doesn’t count as being unattended right?).

I arrived at Cobourg Beach just North of the pier and began to put my gear on. The water was very cold, so I adorned my 6mm wetsuit (which was probably a little too warm for the water temperature, but no suit would have been much too cold). As I walked out to the pier I was blown away but what I saw. These waves looked amazing! Compared to Lake Erie one month ago these were almost ocean quality waves. Following the lead of a few other surfers who were already in the water, I jumped straight off of the pier and into the lake.

In the lake, the waves seemed bigger than they had from the pier, but I was determined to catch them. After a few short rides and failed attempts, I caught the perfect wave! I paddled hard and I could feel the wave lifting me up from behind. I continued to paddle, and just as I felt I was nearing the crest I popped up onto the board. My balance was solid, and I began to ride down the face of the wave. I looked beneath me and saw the smooth glassy face of the wave. It felt like floating on a cloud. This was the feeling I have been chasing ever since I caught my first clean wave in California. I was able to make a few small turns, and to my surprise, the wave was still going, and not just the white water. This was a real wave in Lake Ontario that I was surfing! I was able to ride the wave almost all the way back to the beach. I have no idea how long it really lasted, but it felt like about 15 seconds. I couldn’t believe that one of the best waves I have ever ridden was in Lake Ontario.

I climbed out of the water and began walking back up the pier, ready to do it all over again. I didn’t care if I caught another wave all day. As a surf addict living in Toronto, I have learned to be patient. Usually, I have to wait years in between good waves. Now that I have discovered lake surfing, hopefully, I can trim that waiting period down to a few weeks or months. Although the summer in Toronto is beautiful, I now anxiously await the Fall and the prospect of more Greal Lake surfing.

Another surfer at Cobour Pier
Another surfer about to take off

Useful Links

Here are three Facebook groups I have found helpful:

Forecasting:

Other useful websites and links: