Did you know that Surfing in Michigan exists? Yes I was shocked too when I found out that the “Third Coast” produces some pretty heavy swell. How has all this time passed and I hadn’t heard a single word about great waves coming from the Great Lakes. Well shockingly enough, Michigan’s Great Lakes, produce memorable movement and we will dive deeper into where you can find some of these beauties.
Surfing in Michigan: Major Surf Breaks
- Grand Haven
- Sleeping Bear
- Seol Choix
One of the Upper Peninsula’s main cities and home to Northern Michigan University, Marquette has multiple options to find some solid surf. Presque Isle, the Zoo, McCartys, and anywhere else it’s breaking. Marquette is also home to one of the most infamous Great Lakes Surfers, UP Surfer Dan. You can learn more about him in this video of us searching for waves or this interview
Home to the Great Lakes Surfing Festival, Muskegon produces some solid waves for those in need of Lake waves therapy. Muskegon is located in the south western part of the mitten so those close to Grand Rapids can easily check this place out.
Grand Haven is just north of Muskegon and is another quality place to find yourself standing atop a board. Mix in a scenic jetty complemented with a fire red lighthouse and you have yourself an ideal surf backdrop.
Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes
Right next to Traverse City is Empire State Beach. Here you will find surf along the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes National Lakeshore. Arguably the most scenic place to surf, don’t miss out on this one. Check out Sleeping Bear Surf and Kayak for rentals and swell conditions.
Another Upper Peninsula Surf spot and another gem. I haven’t made it here yet but I have heard nothing but good things.
Surfing in Michigan: Things to Remember
Water Temperatures. The Lakes of Michigan are COLD, VERY COLD. The Lakes tend to be in the 35-40 degrees range on the surface and can vary upon month and if a storm is in sight. Most Surfers are wearing wetsuits that begin at a 4MM and up. This is the suit me and a few other surfers in Marquette use. Booties and Gloves are also HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommended.
Wave Formations. Waves on the Lakes form from localized winds while as Ocean waves form primarily from Offshore storms. Waves form from the transfer of energy of those winds passing over the surface area of the lake and some other variables.
Wave Periods. One of the first things you will realize when surfing in these Lakes, are the condensed wave periods. Sets roll in much faster and the distance between each wave is much shorter.
Swells. Nothing is guaranteed here and swells can have a long dry spells so when the waves are good, get them while you can. The BEST time for surfing in Michigan is Spring-Winter. You can surf all year long but the Major and heavy waves come in Fall and Winter
Water. NO SALT means no sting in the eyes. The freshwater is not only very clean but incredibly refreshing. There are also no sharks to worry about here in the lakes for those who fear the grand daddy of the seas.
Size. Waves can get up to 30 feet but at those times most conditions are dangerous and sloppy.
Ice Chunks. This might be something you initially laugh at but for those who have felt the force of a major ice chunk on the head, know its a serious matter. Stay aware of whats on and below the surface.
Other Notable Great Lakes Surfing Destinations
Duluth! – Duluth, Minnesota might be the best surfing destination in all of the Great Lakes regions. There are more than a dozen breaks here and the some of the most consistent waves. If you have the chance make your way there and you won’t be disappointed.
So the Major Question..
Can you surf in Michigan?
Surfing is very popular in Michigan. Some of the main surf breaks are all along Lake Superior and Lake Michigan but there are also surf breaks all around them! Grab a board and get out there.
Where are some Michigan Surf shops?
Third Coast – Saint Joseph
Beyond Surfing in Michigan
If you need any more advice with what to do besides surfing in Michigan, take a look at my write ups on Hiking the UP and Marquette Travel . Michigan has so much more to offer than Surfing, and if you don’t know you might just miss some of the states best. If you are making your way to Marquette and want to book a photo tour, message me on my Contact Page or book through the Airbnb experience page.
Thanks for reading and PLEASE ASK if you have questions! See you out on the waves or anywhere else in the Mitten State.