by Michelle Michalak May 11, 2018

SPRING SURFING ON THE GREAT LAKES With Joe and Aurelien.

A severe ice storm brought strong winds and a 12ft swell on Lake Ontario in April. While authorities recommended to stay inside to avoid this nasty weather, Joe AKA The Surfing Expert and his friend Aurelien (an experienced fresh water surfer)argued conditions would be perfect to score the lake.

Slyde couldn't wait to find out more about this break & their epic adventure.

Tell me 3 benefits of freshwater surfing compared to ocean surfing

  1. Friendliness of people as they are all stoked.
  2. Spiritual experience because it is unique and requires perfect timing.
  3. No sharks.

Describe Lake Ontario Toronto break on a typical day

It is pretty and very calm with absolutely no waves most of the time. When it comes alive it's very windy with decent surf and clean waves. Usually 20 or more surfers are out there on a good day.

What is the surf scene/ community like in Toronto?

The surf scene is very friendly and growing every day.  It is very diverse with a mix of men,women,young, old,surfers,SUPers, and bodyboarders.

How were you treated by locals?

Before I had even left for the trip, I received messages on Instagram from locals who shared good vibes and got me pumped to try freshwater surfing. The Great Lakes surfing community appears to be very welcoming, which makes sense when you have to brave the elements together. We were the first ones to arrive at the spot early Sunday morning. The few locals we saw took the time to say hi and chatted with us. One named Abdul shared some helpful tips before we paddled out and then he cheered us on from the shore.

Who’s idea was it to make this trip?

Aurelien convinced me that the ice storm hitting the area that weekend would bring epic waves. As soon as we arrived at the spot, I could hear the waves breaking and knew he was right. It really looked like it was an ocean in front of me, not a lake.

How much time did you spend there?  What were the wave/water/weather conditions like?

Not long enough! I already want to go back to shred some more fresh water waves. Aurelien caught some more during an afternoon session on the other side of the lake (US side) on his way home. As far the conditions, the lake was pumping to say the least. Picture a 12ft swell, 36-degree F water, 50 MPH winds and hail coming down non-stop. Ideal conditions to surf there, according to Aurelien.

The waves had built up overnight and were breaking everywhere. The lineup looked rather intimidating, but we looked at each other and unanimously decided to give it a go. Once in the 36°F /25°C brown water, we had to fight against a ton of current, violent hail and an unpredictable rough lake.

Surfed Lake Ontario Toronto in 12Foot Swell, 50 MPHPhotos by Chris Di Dio

What were 2 of your top highlights from this trip?

For sure the fact that the waves were breaking and big but also to be able to share the experience with @TheSurfingExpert as he had never surfed in freshwater. Arriving at the spot and walking in the snow with the anticipation and the excitement to see fresh water waves for the first time was an amazing feeling.

Another highlight has to be Aurelien catching an absolute bomb way outside seconds after we had paddled out. I was so stoked for him and I got to sit first row to witness it. The one downside to this was that he disappeared in the white water and I was left alone in an unknown lineup, freezing water, with massive waves breaking all over the place, pretty intimidating.

Surfed Lake Ontario Toronto in 12Foot Swell, 50 MPH

What’s 1 thing you would do differently?

I wouldn’t change a thing, but next time I’d like to go when roads aren’t icy and the water is warmer.

What advice would you give to someone planning on surfing or handboarding there for the first time?

Just be safe and have fun! Do it because the lake is something special, aloha from the lakes.

I’d tell them to be prepared to get out of their comfort zone. Surfing in fresh water is a very different feeling from the ocean and that’s also what makes the experience unique.I’d also tell them to bring the right surf gear to keep them warm!

Learn About Aurelien Bouche-Pillon: French-American Cold Water Surfer ⬇️

Michelle Michalak
Michelle Michalak

Michelle's diploma reads BA Psychology with a minor in English, and her license plate reads #CaliforniaDreaming4Life. She begin her career in the NYC fashion industry working with fashion and internet pioneer, Bluefly.com However, due the constant "nagging" of her entrepreneurial spirit, her crush on surfing, and hardcore love for the ocean, she chosen to call San Diego home for the past 10 years. On the west coast she 's chased waves & enlightenment working alongside "Gurus" in the online marketing & personal development industries. It in May 2012 she found her true Zen & Stoke, and joined the Slyde Handboards Team.


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