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How to catch waves away from the ocean

By: Josh Lew on Aug. 13, 2014, 8:12 a.m.
Surfing Lake Michigan in September

Photo: abarndweller/Flickr

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Chilly water

Water temperatures in the Great Lakes are consistently cold, meaning a wetsuit is all but required, even in summer. Hardcore freshwater enthusiasts have been known to paddle out to their favorite break in the middle of winter. Higher winter winds generally mean better waves when the thermometer drops. And because water temperatures for larger lakes fluctuate only a little, ice cover is not the problem that you might expect, given the subfreezing air temperatures.

Great Lakes surfing is only a 50-year-old phenomenon, so there are still "secret" surf spots known to only a few tight-lipped surfers. The idea of seeking out unsurfed spots in the ocean is more unrealistic (unless you have access to a private float plane or an ocean-worthy yacht). Meanwhile, new waves are being discovered every year in the Great Lakes. This concept is attractive enough to seduce some saltwater surfers to head inland and give the Great Lakes a try.