What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Canada? Canoeing, cottage country and vast lakes maybe-but surfing, not so much. Surprisingly, though, not only is surfing on the rise in Canada, its not just the east and west coasts that’s a popular spot for those seeking the swell. In fact, they also get some of their best surfing sessions on the Great Lakes, too. And with roughly 2,000,000 lakes nationally, more than the rest of the world combined, there is plenty of opportunity to ride some sweet waves.
1. Tofino, British Columbia
Sitting on the west coast of Vancouver Island is Tofino, Canada’s surf capital, offering a perfect mix of waves ideal for both beginners and experts. There are plenty of beaches spread throughout this beautiful area, so there is plenty of choice. Long Beach is a 16-km stretch that offers plenty of space for all levels of surfers, right in the heart of nature. Another great, though admittedly smaller, spot is Cox Bay Beach, loved by locals because of its constant waves year-round. However, it’s popularity does mean that it is often crowded, and the spot hosts many national and international competitions annually. If you’re just getting to grips with your board, a nice place to learn is Chesterman Beach-a long sandy strand which required much bigger swells to break.
2. Kincardine, Ontario
Nestled in southern Ontario, on the shores of Lake Huron, is Kincardine beach. Not only is this a great swimming spot, the surfers of Ontario flock here to surf from spring right through until fall. However, even with Mother Nature on your side, there are still less than 50 solid surfing days in Ontario. While the weather does play a big part in whether there are any rideable waves, the right planning can go a long way and has even resulted in surfers hitting waves as high as ten feet. An added bonus to Kincardine is the presence of parking, washrooms and even hot showers-perfect once you emerge from the often less than chilly lake.
3. Kananaskis Country, Alberta
Winding through the 4,000 sq km region of Kananaskis Country provincial parks is the Kananaskis river, a hot spot for surfers hoping to catch some waves at the foothills of the Rockies. Sure, you don’t often think of surfing and rivers together, but Santa Claus and The Green Tongue are two of the best spots in Alberta to catch some waves. Along with year-round surfing, they also offer a pretty picturesque backdrop. In between the two spots is also a one-metre-tall man-made wave, built by Canadian surf group Surf Anywhere, and is ideal for those daring, experts who wants something steep and fast.
4. Habitat 67, Quebec
Canada has a couple of great river surf spots, including a The St. Lawrence River, whose wave is so well known it has a name- Habitat 67. It is named because of its proximity to the famous building-block style apartment complex of the same name on Cité du Havre Peninsula. Surfing the Habitat 67 wave sees surfers ride a stationary wave, which is a form of river rapid, providing enough current to support a large wave face. That means it is an exhilaration, almost-never ending surf session. In the summer this hot spot can see long line-ups, so you may have to cut your ride short, but is the best in the spring, but be prepared to dress for the frigid temperatures.
5. Hamilton, Ontario
Surfing definitely isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Lake Ontario or Hamilton for that matter, but it’s actually a local favourite for surfers from across the GTA-and even further afield. Van Wagner’s Beach, while not a Californian paradise, still works well when it gets the right winds. If you catch the weather when she is just right, you are in for some strong rips, so make sure to be prepared. The prime time to surf is in the colder months, so make sure you invest in a well-insulated wetsuit before you hit the water.
6. Summerville, Nova Scotia
A two hour drive out of Halifax, near Port Mouton, is Summerville-a beach break sat at a river mouth. With moderate temperatures, and a swell sent over by hurricane season, this sandy stretch is a hot spot for surfers August right through until November. Despite this, there are still some keen shredders who seek out the best thrills and take on the wild winter waves that hit the shores.
7. Petitcodiac River, New Brunswick
A unique spot on Canada’s eastern coast, with a record-breaking history behind it, is the Petitcodiac River. Located near Moncton, the river, often nicknames ‘The Chocolate River’ due to its deep-colored water attracts riders from across the globe to ride its wave. In fact, the Petitcodiac River tidal bore offers one of the longest surfable waves, not only in Canada, but in the world.
Twice a day, at high tide, the bay reverts back into the mouth of the rider, rushing against the current, creating a breathtakingly huge wave. In fact, back in 2013 two Californian surfers made the journey North to be set a new world record for the longest distance surfed on a wave-29km. However, the River hasn’t always been a surfers paradise. Back in 1968 a causeway was built between Moncton and Riverview to stop the swell, and they were only reopened in 2010. SInce then, Moncton has been capitalizing on the tourism money flying in from the travelling surfers desperate to dip their toes in the chocolate waters.
8. Sturgeon Falls, Manitoba
Right in the heart of Whiteshell Provincial park is Sturgeon Falls, a breathtaking waterfall that feeds its connecting river with incredible surf conditions. The actual spot is at the moment where the Nutimik Lake meets the Whiteshell river, and the waves can vary in size depending on how much water passes through the falls. Surfers hit this spot between late spring and summer, and make the most of its 15 surfable waves. It’s most well known is called Big Mouth and hits every 20 seconds.
Remember, if you do decide to hit the surf, it’s still considered an extreme sport and like all daring activities, it comes with its own risks too. If you are deciding to venture outside of your home province, your provincial health care will only stretch so far and may not cover for things such as emergency evacuation or transport. You should absolutely consider investing in a strong travel insurance policy, so that you can focus on the big things-shredding those waves.