Grand Haven "Surf City"
Modern Grand Haven Surfing
earliest wetsuits used by surfers on the Great Lakes were designed for diving
rather than surfing. A diver could stay under 35-40 degree water for
an hour. Surfers, exposed to the biting cold wind and having their
suits constantly flushed with more cold water, could last about twenty-minutes.
Surfers at Grand Haven would leave there vehicles and heat running while they
dashed out for a couple rides and then come running back with numb fingers and
toes to unthaw and warm back up for another dash out. Wetsuits designed
for surfers extended that some, but it wasn't until more modern times that suits
were designed to allow 3 and 4 hour winter surfing sessions.
A number of Grand Haven surfers would head to warmer climes in the winter to the famous surf breaks of Hawaii, California, Mexico Florida and Puerto Rico. A Grand Haven surfing colony of sorts was set up on the Mexican Pacific coast where surfers would set up on seaside trailer parks, or rent a house for the winter, with others coming down and dropping by for a few weeks or so. Winter trips to the oceans greatly improved their surfing skills and gave them a chance to purchase new boards. Saltwater surfers were astounded that the lakes were being surfed and always made room for them in the lineup. Regardless of where a surfer traveled on the ocean, the question was same as heard at home, "Can you really surf on Lake Michigan?"
“Winter surfers make a point of going out each Christmas Day or January 1st. They continue to surf until the ice gets too heavy, and begin again early as possible in the spring.” Muskegon Chronicle 1974