Grand Haven "Surf City"
Progression of Grand Haven Surfing
Piers have always been a great benefit to surfers
of the Great Lakes, especially so at Grand Haven. Without them the shoreline and sandbars would be
straight and uniform, causing the waves to break all at once, rather than peel
on an angle and a continuous open wave face for surfers to ride. Piers
obstructed the migration of sand and gave the shoreline and sandbars curvature.
They also groomed the waves on their leeward side by blocking wind and chop.
In the early years the surfers had to position themselves far enough to leeward of the piers to catch the waves that did clear the pier head, but close enough to benefit from the grooming effect of the pier. Therefore, most surfing was done on the second and third sand bars.
In later years the piers provided a walkway out to the larger waves off the pier heads. These waves were rarely attempted by the surfers of the sixties. Their boards were just too long and cumbersome to handle the quick-breaking, steep faces. Also, a 1000 ft. plus swim to shore through big surf was too much for most surfers. These waves were better suited for the easier to maneuver short boards with leash.
By the 1970s Grand Haven surfers were riding waves off the north pier on big southwest days and off the south Port Sheldon piers on big northwest days. The shorter boards could handle the steeper slope of bigger waves better than '60s long boards.
“When the wind is northwesterly, Port Sheldon is the favored spot for local surfers. Due to the large amount of dredging done by Consumers Power, the waves come out of deep water and hit sand bars in the shallows making what are called ‘tubes’.” Bob Beaton 1979
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