Unsalted Surf

A few of us still remember back when the mouth of the Michipicoten River was a place sea kayakers feared. The environmental factors that make the river mouth one of the most intimidating surf zones on the Great Lakes haven’t changed, but our skills have. Over a decade ago, we started tiptoeing around the surf in maneuverable whitewater kayaks and endured countless long swims and lost items of gear in the waves. A turning point occurred in the fall of 2004, when Marquette, Mich.-based instructor and Naturally Superior Adventures friend Sam Crowley exposed us to the possibilities of “long boats” (i.e., sea kayaks) in surf with his spectacular enders and pirouettes. The speed of racing down the face of a green wave or bongo sliding in the foam quickly became addictive.

Most of us learned to surf by trial and error. It seems like our rolls become “bombproof” about the same time we got tired of trashing and getting beat down by the surf. Playing around in really big, breaking waves isn’t so much a part of the Paddle Canada, British Canoe Union and American Canoe Association instructional programs. However, we do our best to introduce intermediate and advanced sea kayakers to surf should the desire and conditions exist. We’re lucky to be in close proximity to both the raucous river mouth and the gentler surf conditions at Sandy Beach—the latter is an ideal location for first-time wave riders.

One of the best ways to get a taste of paddling in rough water—and to learn the rescue and judgment skills to do so safely and confidently—is to sign up for our Paddle Canada Level 3 skills course. We can also provide customized instruction for paddlers looking for rough water training on their own schedule.

As much as we lament the end of summer, we anticipate autumn with its warmer waters and more regular storms. If nothing else, our exploits in the waves at the mouth of the Michipicoten River have been great entertainment for the guests of Rock Island Lodge. Come see for yourself, and discover that you too can become a freshwater surfing addict.