It was a cold, windy March night. The winter had been long and in fact, the coldest February on record. Not one single day with a temperature of above 0°C, often with wind chills below -15°C.
Inside the small bar of a very downtown Toronto neighbourhood were individuals partying and making connections with local surfers, waterpeople, adventurers, and trendsetters. For some, the aspect of surfing was new. There is always that newfangled amazement of knowing that we can surf in a place where most city dwellers would never believe you could do. Stories of kookdom, triumph, discovery, and adventure swirled among the pint glasses. To be a surfer here on the Great Lakes, you HAVE to be an inherently adventurous spirit, and be willing to share your story to others.
Far from the popular Toronto streets at another event later that week; the good vibes and high stoke were equally prevalent. The small group of individuals gathered to celebrate the 47th birthday of a long time surfer, a father, the previous Director of the Eastern Surf Association, a bold original member of the Bridge Crew, member of the Wyldewood Surf Club, and a dear friend of mine. Stories of peaks and waves of long past were shared around the wintery campfire. We engaged in the discussion of board shapes and sizes, future events, and the respectful act of teasing your brothers (and sisters) was present, as it always was.
For two demographically different groups of surfers. what remains the same is that we are people who are obsessed with the radical idea that you can surf the Great Lakes. Less lake and more in-land seas, the Lakes are a treasure trove of freshwater, a delicate and powerful ecosystem, beautiful, treacherous, and thousands of kilometers away from the Ocean.
The excitement one feels once they’ve discovered they can surf the Lakes is one that changes lives, brings perspective, and for many, is a saviour to their own lives.
I am lucky to be in my position. Having seen this community grow in ways that there is recognition not just within our shores, but also from surfers found in traditional Ocean coasts. But, just like the culture of surfing has spread from it’s Royal beginnings on the Islands of Hawaii, it was inevitable that we could find ways to ride waves in even the most unimaginable locations.