Lake surfing is growing in popularity, but when conditions are good, there's no comparison between crowded ocean spots and the much smaller line-ups at even the best breaks on Superior, Ontario, Erie, Huron or Michigan. And that's a good thing. On freshwater, you'll catch more waves and have to dodge fewer of your peers. Also, the lake scene is more novice-friendly and there's a greater level of camaraderie, even among people of different skill levels.
Buffalo, New York and Chicago sometimes see surfable waves, but more serious surfers head to more-remote locations like Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Because it touches three of the Great Lakes and weather patterns often blow storms right over the region, it's possible to find prolonged swells at multiple places and simply hop in the car and follow the best conditions as they move from west to east.