When sailboats are heading for cover due to 'Small Craft Warnings", experienced kayakers might want to head to the lake. Forecast wave heights are generally reported in ranges. At 1-2', generally forget it -- things are too tame to really get any surfs. At 2-4', tame entertainment may be found. At 3-5', you'll start catching some more worthwhile rides. At 4-7', expect some sweet rides. Above that, things start to get epic. (See "Flow Info" tab for info on lake reports.) DO NOT TAKE LAKE SURFING LIGHTLY! This is a whole different challenge than the river! On the river, each feature (wave or hole) is relatively 'constant' at a given flow. On the lake, every wave changes as it heads toward shore. When waves break, they can have powerful force as the weight of many gallons of water crash down on you. Having some sort of anti-implosion device for your sprayskirt is imperative at larger wave heights. Especially when waves are up, there will likely be strong currents sweeping out and down the shore. If your skirt implodes and your boat fills with water, each successive wave will hit you, making it like trying to run a class III (or higher) river with a swamped boat, but here there are NO EDDIES! Any time waves are larger than 2-3' you should not boat alone. The combination of wind and waves and currents can make self-rescue far more difficult than on any river you'll encounter in the Midwest.
Obviously there are innumerable locations in Michigan (on the 'East Shore' of Lake Michigan) where one could access the lake for possible surfing action. What follows are just a few known, popular spots. Do you know of a location where the surfing action is just 'too sweet' (when the wind and waves are right)?Please feel free to "Add a Comment" or "Report" detailing any additional 'hot spots' you are aware of on 'the big pond'. Just to have some consistent means of logical order, locations are being listed from South to North, from the Michigan/Indiana border to the Mackinac Bridge. (Listed 'distance' is derived from Google driving directions, using a starting point of MI/IN state line and ending as close as possible via road access to each beach.)
We have no specific awareness of access or wave-break, but this state park should provide a fine setting.
Breakwalls extend from the beach, channeling the flow from the mouth of a river. Depending where the waves are breaking best, paddlers may be able to use the calm along the breakwall to paddle out (as far as it extends, anyway) then catch waves as they wrap around the end of the breakwall.
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Permits are not required for this reach.
'Shuttle' (for each site) is carrying from the parking area to the water and back. The map below is only to show the extent of the Michigan lakefront for Lake Michigan. You can use the text-entry box to enter the location of any of the suggested surf sites, and you will get drive time, distance and directions from there to the Michigan/Indiana state line. (The 'default' mapping is from the 'take-out' or your specified location, to the 'put-in' (which, for this lakefront 'reach', is the Michigan/Indiana state line). The resulting map should give you a good idea of the location of each of these spots, and you can mentally adjust to work out your driving directions from your starting location.)
If someone gets hurt on a river, or you read about a whitewater-related injury, please report it to
American Whitewater. Don't worry about multiple submissions from other witnesses, as our safety
editors will turn multiple witness reports into a single unified accident report.
Log into the American Whitewater website and you can contribute to river descriptions,
flow and access tips, and maps associated with runs you've done. You can even add new
runs to the inventory!