Grand Haven Daily Tribune  July 17, 1965

New Mich. Sport

Surfers Ride Waves on Lake Michigan


   When most swimmers decide that there are safer ways to have fun, surfers start their adventure.
   To them signals of danger, small-boat warnings, and red flags at the Oval mean that the fun is about to begin.
   Members of the Great Lakes Surfing Association, who leave Sunday on a four-day surfing safari, will stop at beaches from here to St. Ignace in search of rough water.
   Sunday’s jaunt is the second the club has organized.  Their first surfing safari took them to Port Sheldon.
   “Surfing on Lake Michigan is all together different from surfing on the pacific Ocean at California,” says John Wright, club member of Spring Lake.
   “On California’s shore,” he said, “waves are from 50 to 60 feet apart, rolling in all along the beach.  The waves keep their crest for some distance giving surfers a long ride.”

SURFERS IN ACTIONJohn Wright, 15448 Howard in Spring Lake, and Rick Sapinski of Grand Rapids show their equipment and skill.  (Tribune Photo)          

   IT TAKES a different kind of skill to surf on the Great Lakes, another member said.  Waves are smaller, closer together, and more sporadic.
   Club President Rick Sapinski of Grand Rapids says, “The wind is very important to blow up the waves.  Too much wind, however, coupled with the constant force of gravity, pulls the waves down too quickly.”
   When asked what builds up the waves to make them adequate for surfing, on member said, the waves roll in regularly from the lake.  When they hit the first sandbar, they pile up coming to a crest.  This is the type of wave the surfers are looking for.
   From then on, another said, the ride is down hill all the way.  The only time the surfer catches up to the bottom of the wave is where it breaks close to shore.
   On the beach in front of Highland Park, where the club has been practicing, waves build up on two sandbars and crest along two lines.  Finding a wave that will take them into shore is quite a feat.  Most of the time the crest topples leaving the surfer with no propulsion.

   THE Great Lakes Surfing Association was organized last fall by Sapinski and a few of his friends.  Most of the members have been hanging around together for quite awhile, a club member said.
   By spring this year, club organizers had rounded up 50 members interested in the new sport for Michigan.
   One-third of the members are from the Tri-Cities area.  Most of the rest come from Grand Rapids.  Some members are visitors from Detroit and Chicago.
   The 16 to 19 year-old club members would like to get the surf-splashing sport established on the shore of Lake Michigan.  If they get enough interest, they could compete in surfing meets, Sapinski says.
   “We hope to compete with other clubs on the lake next year,” Sapinski said.  According to one member, the Great lakes Surfing Association is the first club of its kind in Michigan, and may be the only organized one.
   “We plan to grow,” Sapinski commented.  One dollar is collected as membership dues and surf boards are made available through Bill and Paul’s Sport House in Grand Rapids
   Most of the club members own their own boards which cost from $50 to $180.
   Because of its wide membership, organized meetings are rather difficult.  “We would like to send out bulletins of our activities to our spreading membership,” Sapinski added.