Grand Haven "Surf City"
The Great Lakes Surfing Association
On a windy day in 1964, a very ’stoked’
Rick Sapinski of Grand Rapids, true to the lyrics of the song, literally “hitched a ride in
his wetsuit” to Surf City. He was given a lift by
Grand Haven lakeshore resident Terry Laug. As they sped off towards the
Lake Michigan coast with the board protruding from the back
seat of Terry's navy blue GTO convertible, the lively conversation sparked the idea for a Great Lakes
surfing organization. Soon
after, the Great Lakes Surfing Association was formed.
The GLSA set up headquarters at Terry's beach home atop Grand Haven's 5-Mile Hill where over the next four years surfers came from far and near to camp, party and watch home surfing movies. They staked out their own 'surfing' beach spot just south of what is now the Bil-Mar Restaurant.
When they weren't out surfing the waves they were sitting on the beach carving tikis and preaching the good word of surf to all who would listen. Annual Great Lakes Surfing Championships were held there and the state park in 1966, 67 and 68. Trophies were awarded and results posted in local newspapers and even world-wide in Surfer Magazine.
By the 1970s the original GLSA faded away as the various founders and key members went their ways. but Great Lakes and Lake Michigan surfing championship continued to be held at Grand Haven throughout the 1980s and into the 90s. Today Grand Haven, rivaled only by Sheboygan, WI, is still regarded as the 'Surf City' of the Great Lakes, thanks in great part to the GLSA.
“Rowdyism and the ‘surf bum’ types which
give the sport a bad name are not a problem in the GLSA. It’s the ‘pseudos’ and
‘hodads’ that cause the trouble and there are very few around. Those are the
types that like the big, romantic idea of surfing and buy all the fancy outfits.
They like to play the role but they seldom show up when there’s surf running.”
Robert Allen 1966