It’s a cold Friday morning in late January. The snow has been falling all night. With two friends, Curtis Eichenberger and Brian McElroy, I’m heading northwest from the town of Collingwood, Ontario, to the shores of Lake Huron in Bruce County. It’s a two-hour drive, and we’re hoping the ice has taken hold of the shoreline.
We park at the end of a rural road and begin the 20-minute walk to the shore. Curtis and Brian are in wetsuits and jackets, carrying their surfboards, walking down a forest path in a heavy snowstorm.
I can’t help thinking that this is a quintessentially Canadian experience.
Our first glance at the water has Curtis and Brian excited: The waves are head high, and the sets are consistent. There are a couple of other hardy surfers out here, but it’s better than their local spot, which recently drew a crowd of some 25 people.
The drive, it seems, was worth it.
In recent years there’s been a significant increase in the popularity of lake surfing in North America. Unlike ocean surfers, who often depend partly on tides, lake surfers rely solely on strong, sustained winds. The stormy winter months often bring the biggest waves — and therefore the best surfing conditions.
January water temperatures on the Great Lakes are typically between 32 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Without a wetsuit in such temperatures, most people lose dexterity in just a few minutes. Exhaustion or loss of consciousness would occur after 15 to 30 minutes.
Still, the Great Lakes are becoming
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