Riding the Waves of Endless Summer at Sleeping Bear Surfest 2009

Michael Gray, director of Uncommon Adventures, and fellow paddleheads will embrace the waters at Sleeping Bear Surfest for its second year, Oct. 2–4, a weekendlong event where surfers, kayakers and paddleboarders will gather to test their skills in Lake Michigan’s breaking waves. (Note, this exciting event is scheduled for October 7 – 9, 2011 and one can sign up for Sleeping Bear Surfest 2011 for $95.)

While no formal training will be completed at Surfest, the weekend will be filled with plenty of water and skill sharing. Camping, breakfasts, showers (two outdoor and one indoor with hot water) and a sauna and snacks are all included in the fee. Participants are asked to bring their own lunches and a dish to share for potluck dinners in the big outdoor kitchen as well as camping gear (arrangements can be made in advance to share). The days will consist of endless water and if the weather doesn’t permit (wind direction plays a large factor in the right—or wrong—kind of waves), outdoor activists can walk, hike or mountain bike the scenic trails. Sea kayaks, river boats, surf boats, paddleboards and surfboards of all types are welcome.

Gray’s passion for kayaking helped him create Uncommon Adventures in 1984, a few years after receiving his degree in Environmental Interpretation from Michigan State University. “I started this business to address a screaming need for people to get outside and plant their toes in the sand and let water carry people’s stresses away,” Gray says. “I got into kayaking because it seemed like a great low-impact way to travel in wilderness areas … you didn’t have to carry all the weight on your back like backpacking, and you don’t even leave tracks when you travel.”

Travel. The bread and butter of what Gray does. He’s seen the world by paddling, taking on the waters of Alaska, North and Central America, New Zealand, Argentina and Denmark. His next stop, Antarctica. “It’s all about playing in the water,” Gray says jovially.

Surfest is “Like a music festival … but with paddle sports. People with like minds share like ideas and sports in an informal setting,” Gray says. And Sleeping Bear couldn’t be a more perfect backdrop, offering beautiful natural areas like Empire Beach, which is nestled in the center of the dunes, and long waves created by southwesterlies around the pier in Frankfort. Having paddled the shores of Sleeping Bear for 27 years, Gray proclaims the area to be his personal playground.

Rain or shine (hopefully shine), Gray expects another great turnout with new experiences created, energized people and lots of waves. Last year’s event drew guests from Michigan and beyond. There was even a rocket scientist from NASA ready to surf Sleeping Bear’s waters. Gray advises that while most surfers are beginners, the trip is not designed for kayak beginner level skills. “Keeping everyone safe and well is most important,” Gray says. “One must have a good kayak bracing technique and know how to self-rescue.” Uncommon Adventures does offer many introductory classes for kayaking newbies.

So soak up the idea of getting wet, grab a board or a boat and head out to Moonshadow Herb Farm, and inhale nature’s sweet smell for an H2O packed weekend. Registration is limited, and the cost is $95 per person for this two-night camping excursion. Oh, and don’t forget Gray’s famous homemade wild blueberry pancakes await each morning, yum. 231-882-5525, www.uncommonadv.com.

Amp up the Surfest weekend by finding fun in Traverse City.

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