Watching these surfers leap into Lake Michigan on a blue-sky day, it’s almost easy to forget they are surfing in November in Northern Michigan. Surfing the Great Lakes is not for the meek. While the waves are not the 50-foot variety found in Hawaii, the frigid air and water make Great Lakes surfing a challenge, and an adventure all its own.

Surfboards are a bit scarce in the Great Lakes as most of the board builders and sellers are located on the ocean coasts. Most people who are just getting started ask the locals about used boards of check the “for sale” section on If you’re buying a board, be sure to learn about the difference between buying to salt water versus fresh water as there is a different equation used in estimating the correct size board. Renting is an option. One spot that can be usually counted on to have surfing equipment is Sleeping Bear Surf & Kayak in Empire. You’ll also need a wetsuit, or two if you plan to surf in to November, ranging from a 3 mil jacket to a hooded 6 mil for late fall and winter. And don’t forget booties and gloves.

Check out the rules associated with surfing the Great Lakes on and then give it a go. In general, new surfers can surf any waves on any shoreline, but they are asked to be courteous, to stay out of the way of others and remember to never, ever surf alone.

More on Surfing: 

Quick Links to More Fun in Benzie County and Northern Michigan’s West Shore

  • The Benzie & West Shore Vacation Directory: Listings to lodging, galleries, restaurants and more along with an interactive map.
  •  Benzie & West Shore Digital Vacation Guide: Browse the pages of the complete Guide and click to hundreds of websites.
  • The Complete Restaurant Guide for Benzie and the West Shore: Just type in any Benzie County town or town on Northern Michigan’s West Shore and browse the array of restaurant options.
  • Video: Discover Pt. Betsie Lighthouse
  • Check out all the music, festivals, arts and events of all kinds happening in Benzie and the West Shore: Just pop the name of the Benzie County town you’d like to play in, or one along the West Shore of Northern Michigan, and choose amongst hundreds of things to do!
  • Plot your day in Benzie, Manistee, Ludington and more using this Interactive Map: Choose an activity in “I’d like to find” and choose a Benzie, Manistee or West Shore town for “in a town near.” Then click away!
  • Rent a cottage in Benzie and the West Shore: There hundreds of cottages to rent in Northern Michigan. Type the town you’re interested in into the Search box and plan your getaway Up North!