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The Great Lakes Surf Festival ・ 3 Things We Loved + 4 Tips for Your Visit

 
The Great Lakes Surf Festival answers the question “Can you surf on the Great Lakes?” Spend a day at this annual watersport gathering on Lake Michigan, near Muskegon, Michigan, and fall in love with surfing, SUP and more on the Third Coast! #surfing #openwidetheworld
 
  • What: The Great Lakes Surf Festival

  • Where: Pere Marquette Beach in Muskegon, Michigan

  • When: annually, in August. Check website for date.

Without even looking, I could feel the smile spreading across Homer’s face. “I’ve got the stoke again!” he called over to my board.

But I already knew he did. Because I had it, too.

It had been just over ten years since we left Southern California, and we were finally sitting on surfboards again. This time not on the Pacific Ocean, but on Lake Michigan as part of the annual Great Lakes Surf Festival. We could hardly contain our excitement!

* Thank you to the Great Lakes Surf Festival in Muskegon, Michigan, for partnering with us in the creation of this content.


What we loved about the Great Lakes Surf Festival

Mag getting some board comfort during her first time on a SUP. Great Lakes Surf Festival, Muskegon, Michigan.

Mag getting some board comfort during her first time on a SUP. Great Lakes Surf Festival, Muskegon, Michigan.

The Great Lakes Surf Festival has so many activities!

We did some surfing, had our first-ever SUP session —although our learning curve turned it into more of a KUP (Kneel Up Paddleboard) session— and watched some skim boarding. We also spent a bit of time under the yoga tent and perused the vendor stalls a few times over.

GLSF also hosted clinics on water safety and wave forecasting, plus demos on foil boarding and windsurfing, as well as lots of fun kids activities. The festival ended with a 5-mile “downwinder” SUP race.

The Great Lakes Surf Festival has great instructors!

Great Lakes surfing is a bit different than ocean surfing, at least for first time cross-overs like us. So we really appreciated all the tips from Miller, our (lake) surfing instructor.

And we probably wouldn’t have made it to our knees, much less our feet, on a SUP if it hadn’t been for the instruction and encouragement of veteran water sportsman, Marlow.

Two dozen instructors volunteered their time to the event, and each one we met was a credit to their sport!

Instructor Marlow getting us ready for our first time on SUPs. Great Lakes Surf Festival, Muskegon, Michigan.

Instructor Marlow getting us ready for our first time on SUPs. Great Lakes Surf Festival, Muskegon, Michigan.

The Great Lakes Surf Festival answers the question “Can you surf on the Great Lakes?” Spend a day at this annual watersport gathering on Lake Michigan, near Muskegon, Michigan, and fall in love with surfing, SUP and more on the Third Coast! #surfing #openwidetheworld

The Great Lakes Surf Festival has a true beach-vibe!

I will admit, we kept our expectations in check when imagining how a surf festival on a lake would feel.

But between the perfect weather, the live music, the entourage of water enthusiasts, plus surfboards and surf gear everywhere, GLSF felt just like a beach fest back in SoCal.

Maybe better, as GLSF had no traffic plus easy parking —two things unheard of in SoCal beach cities!


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4 Tips for Your Great Lakes Surf Festival Experience

Great Lakes Surf Fest Tip 1: Be flexible in your planning.

Outdoor events by their very nature require flexibility, an outdoor water event perhaps even more so.

The wind might create challenging chop during a SUP session. Waves might completely disappear during a surf session. And any number of other weather-related occurrences could strike.

In addition, new-ish events can still be perfecting their MO’s, so programming adjustments may need to be made.

None of these eventualities should require more than a pause to regroup for anyone with a flexible mindset, which most watersport enthusiasts, inspiringly, seem to have.

 

Great Lakes Surf Fest Tip 2: Support the food trucks. And bring some food, too.

Local food trucks make any event more fun. And delicious! Great Lakes Surf Festival, Muskegon, Michigan.

Local food trucks make any event more fun. And delicious! Great Lakes Surf Festival, Muskegon, Michigan.

The offerings at the food trucks looked and smelled amazing! And we were planning to indulge. Except that the schedule of activities we wanted to participate in barely left enough time to walk over to the food trucks, let alone wait in (albeit short) lines and still have time to eat and get back in the water.

We were able to grab some phenom food from the vendors, but not until the end of the day. Meaning we were a bit hungry during the day. Which can be a challenge during extended physical activity.

Next time, we will: plan on patronizing the food trucks before and after the event, plus bring snacks and drinks to stay energized during the day.

Alternatively, you might: opt for a less rigorous activity schedule. You might decide you don’t need to do everything on the schedule, and actually take a break and enjoy midday eats at the food trucks.

 

Great Lakes Surf Fest Tip 3: Set up camp.

We suggest creating a little home base on the beach for the day; some beach chairs, a sun shade, and those snacks we mentioned above.

Having a comfy, shaded shelter to retreat to from time to time can make all the difference during a full day of sun and sport. It’s a good idea to recharge and not get so exhausted that you leave before the event ends or you’ll miss the great raffles. No one wants to find out their number was called for a free surf trip to Costa Rica, but they couldn’t claim it because they were back at the hotel, napping. Eek!

Next time, we will: bring more than just our beach towels, and set up a little beach retreat for ourselves, being sure to recharge at intervals.

Alternatively, you might: set up a real camp! Yep, with reservations, you can actually tent overnight at GLSF, both Friday and Saturday nights.

 

Great Lakes Surf Fest Tip 4: Bring your fitness game.

Proper strength + conditioning make every sport more fun! Homer’s got the surf stoke at Great Lakes Surf Festival, Muskegon, Michigan.

Proper strength + conditioning make every sport more fun! Homer’s got the surf stoke at Great Lakes Surf Festival, Muskegon, Michigan.

We’re in pretty decent physical shape, at least in the all-around sense. (Maybe Homer more than I, but why get competitive?!) But there is something to be said for sport-specific training.

Yes, I loved every minute on the water at GLSF, but I did have several moments when I could have made more out of the opportunity if I had a few specific strengths. Maybe stronger upper body for better pop ups (you don’t want to see what surf wax does to a knee dragged through a weak pop-up!) and stronger legs and glutes for better balance on the SUP.

Next time, we will: do some push-up planks and single leg exercises for a few weeks before attending.

Alternatively, you might: come as you are and be content with just enjoying the experience. No pressure to crush it!

 

So there you have it, what we loved and what we recommend for an amazing time at the next Great Lakes Surf Festival. What do you think?

Ready to take your surf game to the Third Coast?


Looking for more outdoor fun in Muskegon, Michigan? Check out:

Learning to luge and

More winter sports at the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex

Or maybe you’d love more on water sports? Then don’t miss:

5 tips to crush your first whitewater kayak lesson and

an unlikely Midwest destination for whitewater kayaking

If you’re new to outdoor activities, you might enjoy:

5 tips for first time campers from a first time camper and

What to expect on an organized campout

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The Great Lakes Surf Festival answers the question “Can you surf on the Great Lakes?” Spend a day at this annual watersport gathering on Lake Michigan, near Muskegon, Michigan, and fall in love with surfing, SUP and more on the Third Coast! #surfing #openwidetheworld