Great Bend, Ontario
Later in the week, we start out near the southern boundary of the Pinery Provincial Park and paddle north with the wind at our backs – gliding along with the wind-driven bumps that nudge us steadily toward our designated endpoint.
The afternoon sun wanes, and the strong winds that propelled our journey weaken as our downwind adventure transitions to a calm sunset cruise.
We approach Grand Bend’s south beach – the horizon aglow in ascending shades of orange, red and violet layers. The lighthouse tower stands at the end of the pier – a silhouetted sentry watching over the harbour mouth.
After a day on the water, we are eager to refuel, sipping ice cold beers on the patio at a beachfront watering hole. The shops, bars and restaurants of the strip pulse with music and the infectious vibe that endless summers are made of – a little something for everyone.
For a more relaxed atmosphere, we need only travel a few minutes north of Grand Bend on Highway 21 to arrive in Bayfield, a small heritage village. The town square offers shopping, food and drink with an impressive selection of Ontario craft brewed beers, regional wines and even fresh-pressed juices and smoothies. Bayfield also has a picturesque beach with a fairly consistent pier break for surfing that goes off with a strong west wind.
A little further up the highway still, we find the most impressive freshwater surf break on the Great Lakes – Kincardine’s Station Beach has been voted one of the top places to surf in Canada – second only to world-famous Tofino, British Columbia. Here, you can rent a board, compete in a SUP race or just check out the summer scene in Lake Huron’s premier surf town.
If summertime crowds don’t appeal, an off-season visit can also be memorable – the ‘West Shore Huron Classic’ surf competition gives a firsthand glimpse of true lake stoke. Although weather conditions ultimately dictate whether or not the contest is a go, the festive atmosphere and genuine appreciation for the Great Lakes can be felt among the participants and spectators alike.
The contest not only showcases the best freshwater surfers from the Great Lakes community – as a designated qualifier event for the ‘Tofino Rip Curl Pro’ Canadian Surfing Championship – it also draws a handful of surfers from around the world.
The lack of a nearby ocean does little to deter stand up paddlers and surfers here – Lake Huron may seem a lifetime removed from world famous surf breaks like ‘Pipeline’ on the north shore of Oahu, Hawaii, or ‘Mavericks’ in Northern California – but that has not hindered the emergence of a true freshwater surf renaissance that continues to thrive.
From the pioneering lake surfers who paved the way – braving ice, snow and bitter cold, to the youngest grommet wetting his or her paddle for the very first time – the Aloha spirit is certainly alive and well on Lake Huron and throughout the Great Lakes region.
If You Go:
Retail & Rentals:
West Shore Clothing and Surf Shoppe – Kincardine, Ontario
Author Bio: Scott Arseneault is an adventure-minded traveler with a passion for storytelling. His travels are often inspired by the natural environment, the people and places he encounters along the way, and a desire to share these experiences with others. Since his introduction to stand up paddling and surfing about six years ago he has found himself immersed in surf culture, and he rarely hits the road or water without a board of some sort to compliment his notepad and camera.