SUP Surfing the Great Lakes

A letter from the frozen midwest. Jim Lynch is a landlocked SUP Surfer from South of Chicago and he sent us this report from his unusual surfspot:

Aloha, I’m from the frozen Midwestern land of wind and steel and I surf and standup paddle in the Great Lakes. I love these lakes and I try to spend as much time as I can in the water, generally downwind paddling, surfing and free diving.

Surprisingly, the lakes can produce ocean level swells and waves, but these conditions can be challenging and usually occur with heavy localized winds, short period intervals and in freezing winter temperatures.

Winter surfing in the Great Lakes is frigid and it’s definitely not for the faint of heart. Paddling out through ice and slush is invigorating and the rush of having a 6 mm wetsuit flush with freezing water is like nothing else I’ve ever experienced.

Epic conditions in a frozen world.

I’m from the South Side of Chicago and I started surfing around 15 years ago when I traveled for work in California. When I moved back to the Midwest, I was looking for ways to get back in the water when I serendipitously found a local surf shop. That’s when I found out about lake surfing and the tight knit and extremely passionate community that’s here. The people are truly great and that’s one of the things that makes the lakes such an amazing place to surf.

A few years ago, I ended up injuring my shoulder and back and that stopped me from prone paddling my surfboards. I reluctantly started standup paddling to stay in the water and to be honest, it’s the most fun I’ve ever had. I realized that I can double my wave count and make it out on days that I never would have tried before, both small and large. I can also ride downwind swells for miles offshore while barely paddling, it’s truly amazing. The only trade-off is navigating the high winds and short interval sets we get on the paddle out, but I enjoy the challenge… and the workout.

Glassy in the midwest. Jim Lynch SUP Surfing.

I’m a type 1 diabetic as well and I use workouts and paddling to help treat and control my levels. Managing blood sugar levels while surfing and downwinding in chaotic conditions, in sometimes remote locations, can be a bit of a challenge. This has taught me valuable lessons on planning and preparation and has also allowed me to push myself and the barriers that are usually set with managing this disease.

Ultimately, I just love to ride waves on whatever board I can and it is one of those things that never gets old for me. I can remember good waves like old friends and those are great experiences and memories to have.

Do you have a cool story from your local spot? Let us know.