Grand Haven  "Surf City"
Early History

Surfing Grand Haven in the ‘60s


   Surfing on the Great Lakes isn’t altogether different than on the oceans despite the size, shape and frequency of the waves and lesser buoyancy of freshwater than salt water.  Surfboards of the sixties were long, heavy and crudely shaped by today's standards.  Their size benefited paddling and catching waves which was great for those learning to surf, but cumbersome to maneuver even by the better surfers.  Rides were judged more by what surfers did on the boards rather than what they did with the boards.  
   In the sixties it was common to see surfers switching stance, spinning around on the board, assuming artistic poses with arm and hand expressions.   They strove for long, gliding rides on the open face of the wave chased on by the breaking white water behind them.  They stepped to the back of their boards or turn to slow down.  To speed up they walked to the front of their boards, and with enough skill and agility put their toes over the nose of the board and ‘hang ten.’
   In order for surfers to ride waves that resembled the well-defined, long swells of the ocean they made use of the piers to block out wind and surface chop. They surfed at the beaches to the north of the piers on days when the wind blew from the southwest and on the beaches to the south of the piers when the waves came from the northwest.  After their rides surfers could often be seen joyfully walking back up the beach to the calmer water by the pier, where they could paddle back out, drift downwind and catch another wave.  This became known as ‘the circle route.’

   “You get more speed nose riding and it gives you a feeling you’re almost standing on the water when you’re way out on the end of the board.”  Craig VanSingle 1966



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