Ontario's Scottish Destination on Lake Huron
A swirl of snow peppered air blows against your skin causing you to hunker deep into your coat, and squint your eyes. They say fresh air is good for you, but it’s doubtful ‘they’ have ever faced the brunt of a Bruce County snow squall. You soldier on, who else will take the dog for a walk? That’s when you see it, something, no… someONE, in the frigid waters of Lake Huron. Panic begins to rise, you look around trying to make sense of this scene. Who are they? How did they get in the water? Are they alone? A massive wave hurtles towards the individual who is bobbing helplessly in the water. You stare transfixed, a silent scream caught in your throat. Then… as graceful as a well rehearsed ballet, the individual is up, dancing along the wave’s face atop a board..... Then it It hits you, they are surfing!
Lake surfing is challenging the mold of what is considered a winter activity, and opening up a new and unique lifestyle - Like California with toques. The biggest misconception surrounding the Great Lakes surf scene is the actual season. Most equate surfing with warm sunny climates so it stands to reason the Lake Huron surf season is in the summer, right? This, to many peoples astonishment, is not the case. Fresh Water waves are completely wind driven. No wind, no waves. Kincardine experiences strong onshore winds in the Spring, Fall and Winter. The summer is typically very flat, a great season for Stand Up Paddle boarding, though occasionally a storm blows through and graces Kincardine with a rare summer surf.
The best time to surf the aquamarine waters of Lake Huron is at the end of August straight through to the end of October. A lot of lake surfers tap out in November as the air drops to zero or below, the water starts to feel like ice, and amenities such as beach showers, are closed. Due to these potentially dangerous and uncomfortable winter conditions, logic and reason urge the typical person to move on to another sport. The problem is, if surfing is in your heart, it's not a sport, it’s a way of life and a chill in the air is not keeping you from that wave.
Surfing in the winter is not for everyone. It is, however, one of the most magical experiences you will ever encounter. Imagine sitting on your board, floating in bluer then blue waters, not a sound to be heard, a blanket of snow covering everything within eyesight; true magic . There is another benefit of winter surfing. Cold air is more dense than warm air, which means less wind is needed to produce waves, and therefore winter sees some of the biggest and strongest waves of the year.
Another surprising fact is the right gear does, in fact, keep you warm. Wetsuits have come a long way in technology and design. A winter suit, combined with good quality boots and mitts can keep you toasty right up until the Lake Freezes. The Local SurfShop, Surfsup Eco Shop, located in Downtown Kincardine has helpful and knowledgeable staff that can answer any questions or concerns you may have. The staff intimately know the products as they are the ones you see in the water in the dead of January. The shop also offers rentals; boards, wetsuits, and lessons. Should this article spark your adventurous spirit and you dare brave the chilled waters of Lake Huron, the resulting ice selfie is completely and utterly worth it.