Great Lakes Surf Spot Guides & Reports

Find surf spots in the Great Lakes. Learn about the best conditions for different spots, find information about the types of waves, and compare surf reports in the region.

Great Lakes Surfing Guide

With over 4,500 miles of U.S. coastline, the Great Lakes, or “The Third Coast,” offer abundant options for waves for those who are brave enough to endure the cold and looking for some adventure.

While surfing in the Great Lakes is very different compared to surfing in the ocean, there are waves to be had, and with the right equipment and expectations, you can have a pretty amazing surfing experience.

Waves on the Great Lakes are formed just like waves in the ocean – by wind. The major difference is the area over which the wind is able to blow. Given the geography, shape, size, and orientation of the Third Coast, waves are all created by short period windswell.

For this reason, surf on the Great Lakes is best described as windy, choppy, crumbly. That said, the lakes are capable of producing some head-high and hollow waves with the right conditions.

While there are certainly some more popular spots, especially near the major cities, there are countless more undiscovered waves for those willing to search and explore. You’ll find the cleanest surf near jetties, piers, groins, points, and coves. It all depends on the current wind conditions and the structure/protection the waves can find.

Considering the lakes are freshwater, you’ll find you float less than in the ocean. You’ll need to add some more volume to your board – this will help with catching the less powerful waves and blowing through the chop anyway.

Since it gets extremely cold when the waves are good, you’ll also need to invest in a high quality, thick wetsuit along with booties, gloves, and a hood. You’ll need to consider your post-surf routine as well – having a warm place to change and dry off is important. Keeping some hot water in a thermos is not a bad idea.

Seasons for Surf in the Great Lakes

  • Fall: Fall is probably the best season for surfing on the Great Lakes. The weather is not yet unbearable or too extreme, but there are plenty of wave producing storms.

  • Winter: Storms continue through winter and bring some sizable waves, but temperatures also drop considerably. By late winter some parts of the lake can freeze.

  • Spring: Spring remains cold for the most part and waves become more sporadic.

  • Summer: Summer brings mild temperatures and weather. You can still find waves here and there in the summer, but you’ll likely need to hunt for them and temper your expectations.

Great Lakes Average Monthly Water Temperatures

How cold do the Great Lakes get? Use the table below to get an idea. Remember, the Great Lakes are massive, so one area may be considerably warmer or colder depending on the time of year and local conditions. If these water temperatures don’t look so bad to you, remember to factor in the air temperature and wind chill as well – which can drop well below 0°.

The proper equipment is an absolute necessity for surfing on the Great Lakes.

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Avg. Water Temp (°F) 41° 40° 41° 44° 50° 56°63° 64° 62° 55° 48° 43°
Low 33° 28° 33° 34° 43° 52°53° 55° 53° 47° 43° 35°
High 53° 51° 50° 50° 55° 68°74° 74° 70° 62° 57° 55°