A small but dedicated subculture of surfers prove you can hang 10 in the 416.
Multimedia producer Matt Pancer took up surfing while living in Brazil and Australia, but he never imagined that he would be able to keep up the hobby after returning home to Canada. That is, until about five years ago, when a friend convinced him to hit Lake Ontario’s waves during a storm.
“I couldn’t believe how good it was,” says Pancer. “After that, I was out as much as I could.”
Nowadays, Pancer finds himself part of a small but dedicated surfing subculture based right here in Toronto, whose members don wetsuits to hit the waves in all seasons. While most of the places we tend to associate with surfing are temperate or hot, Great Lakes surfers prefer fall and winter conditions; autumn storms are the likeliest to produce a stiff wind that blows in from one direction, and thus the most rideable waves. But, inevitably, a handful of summer days will do the trick too.
Pancer figures that the sport’s required cold weather keeps many potential surfers away—people don’t love being damp and chilly. But for those who do dare to brave the swells, surfing offers a novel way to enjoy the nature that we’re lucky to have so close by. With the right gear, he adds, it can be totally comfortable.
“We have more coastline on the Great Lakes than the entire continental USA,” says Pancer, “so you can find your own spots if you explore.”