It happens about once a day that someone walks into our store and says, “A surf shop in Toronto!? Really? Where do you surf around here?”. The shock that comes to their face when I respond with, “Just down the road,” is always priceless. When I explain all about our surfing community that exists on the Great Lakes, oftentimes they can’t fathom that surfing actually happens right here in our backyard.
It is still really hard for a lot of people to believe that surfing exists in Ontario.
When most people think about surfing, they think of sunshine, warm weather, and Malibu. But shockingly, surfing takes place on both the East and West coast of Canada in places like Tofino and Lawrencetown. It is quite magnificent the way the ocean brings in beautiful ground swells to those locations. However, you can also ride the surf in our freshwater lakes. My name is Maddi Leblanc, and I am the General Manager at Surf the Greats in Toronto, Ontario. We are a Canadian surf brand that promotes surfing on the Great Lakes and beyond.
There is truly nothing more special than surfing a wave that was formed approximately 100 kilometres away, and all by wind! In order to surf on the Great Lakes, you need lots of wind and cold air. Our surf season typically runs from September to May each year because we need storms to produce waves here. I grew up in Niagara, Ontario, so most of my surfing experience began on Lake Erie. I moved to Toronto in September of 2021 and have more recently been surfing unique spots all around the GTA.
Recently, I was introduced to Prince Edward County. It became one of my favourite locations to surf. If there’s a strong Southwest or Western swell, then conditions line up perfectly in the County to make Lake Ontario almost look like the ocean. We get waves that form the perfect shape to ride, whether it’s for longboarding or shortboarding. The County has been a magical place to surf. Beyond the County, the lake consists of many surf breaks that work well on Southwest or Eastern winds. If you’re in the right place at the right time, I guarantee you can find a perfect wave to surf.
I think for the rest of my life I’ll keep chasing lake waves. Even though our surf season runs during the coldest and roughest months of the year, there’s nothing like the feeling of sitting on your surfboard watching the snowfall and laughing with your friends in the water. We cheer each other on, fall in lots, and shiver when cold water flushes down the backs of our wetsuits. It’s so invigorating! Surfing has given me drive and passion to make the most out of Canadian winters, and I truly don’t know what I would do without it.
Surfing is only one of the many ways to enjoy Lake Ontario’s Eastern Basin. Check out 5 Ways to Enjoy Nature in Lake Ontario’s Eastern Basin, and learn Why Lake Ontario’s Eastern Basin is a Biogem that Needs Protection.
Then, raise your voice to safeguard it—now, and for tomorrow—by establishing a National Marine Conservation Area.
Maddi was born and raised in Welland, Ontario. Maddi competes in SUP racing and when she is not on the water she dedicates her time to inspiring others through guest lectures and panel discussions, as well as fundraise for brain cancer research. She has raised over $40,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society since 2014. Currently Maddi is working as the General Manager for Surf the Greats – a surf store in Toronto.