California has surfers up and down the piers. Northern Michigan though? Most would say “impossible.”  But Larry and Nancy Bordine say, “Meet us in Frankfort. Oh, and be ready to catch some waves.” The owners of Beachnut Surf Shop also clue us in on another treasured secret—Frankfort is well-known among longboarders across the world. We head over to try it out.

Beachnut Surf Shop is all about getting people to engage with life, again and again, no matter the weather, no matter the board. But they’re not just a Michigan surf shop, they’re a Michigan adventure shop. They offer equipment rentals (bikes, skateboards, longboards, boogie-boards, surfboards, paddleboards—lots of boards) and a quick tutorial before you head out. I went out to try a few hills and waves with the guys—this is what I learned. 


Lesson 1
You know when your stomach drops and your head tells you to find a chair, but your heart says wait—that’s what I felt longboarding. I was going down a hill with Larry Bordine and his crew at my side, and it may have only been a 20-degree hill, but it felt like I’d hopped off the lift at Caberfae Peaks with my hands in my pockets. I was freaking out. Then I heard Larry reminding me of all the coaching he’d given me earlier about how to lean, where to point my hands, and how to position my knees. And I made it to the bottom without falling on the asphalt. Think positive thoughts. Larry and his team will get you to the bottom of the hill, and then you’ll be ready to head to the top again.

Lesson 2
Beachnut Surf Shop doesn’t just ship you down the hill and say, “uh, try not to fall.” Larry walked me through safety rules on flat land first, like how to get off the board correctly (before you crash.) You’d be amazed at how many people don’t know how to get off a board properly, he says. And that makes sense—when I was a kid I had a really bad fall while flying downhill. I didn’t pick up a board again until my lesson with Larry. Take the time to learn the basics. 

We want people to be safe on the boards. After saftey comes the fun. We’ll teach everything from how to stand on the board to carving the downhill bend. Whatever people want to learn. – Larry Bordine, Beachnut Surf Shop Co-Owner

Lesson 3
Larry says fear is what they try to prevent. No one should stop boarding because the hill treated them bad. They want people to feel safe, comfortable, and aware that longboarding and skateboarding have risks, but that’s no different than other sports like skiing. So, I knew I was in good hands, and Larry wasn’t going to look the other way and check his phone while I ate gravel. He was there to make sure I could turn, stop, and get on and off the board. His pro tips about how to twist and lean put confidence back in my toes. Trust your instructor. They know what they’re doing.

Here’s a fun video of Larry doing a simple carve:

Lesson 4
Frankfort is actually one of the best places in the world for downhill longboarding. I’ll say that again: Best place in the world for downhill longboarding. Really? Yup. I’m just as amazed as you. Some of the top longboarders from all over the world come to Frankfort just to carve the bends and hills of this Great Lakes Teensy Town. That and maybe grab a beer afterward at Stormcloud.

“There’s no official ranking for skating Frankfort. It’s still kind of an underground culture,” Larry says. “Some of our best spots have been closed to us because of a few inconsiderate skaters, so most skaters hold their best spots closely. We can’t prove our hills are world class, but our hills can.”

Lesson 5
Larry’s team is a band of teenagers—Alex, Jacob, and Quincy—and they are the heart of Beachnut Surf Shop. Larry and Nancy have been providing healthy opportunities for kids for years. They want young people to experience the heart-pumping thrill of adventure sports while also making sure there’s a mentality of safety and respect. In the past, people have traveled to Frankfort to use the terrain, but treated the community poorly, giving longboarders a bad rap. But when you talk with the guys from Beachnut Surf Shop, you’ll walk away feeling like the future is in great hands. Treat people and places with love and respect. 

After longboarding, we hit the water. While in Frankfort, you might spot someone from Beachnut Surf Shop riding one of their electric longboards while pulling paddleboards/surfboards (see image below). Fun Fact: Michigan’s Governor Snyder actually signed a law allowing and promoting electric longboards. If you see Larry or someone from his team out on one, be sure to wave.

Paddleboarding and Surfing

Lesson 1
The best surfing happens in winter.
Weird right? The season usually ranges from late August–December. Everything from prone surfing (the stuff you think of when you hear surfing) to paddle surfing (just like it sounds) can be done on Lake Michigan. For some footage of Larry showing off his paddle surfing, check out this YouTube video.

Lesson 2
I spent a while out on the water. Although we didn’t have big enough waves to surf, I was able to practice different techniques with Larry like how to stand on the board, how to catch the wave, what to do with your paddle, how to goof around and fall in the water (I rocked at that one) and more. Just have fun with it. It’s why you’re out there anyway, right!?

Lesson 3
Many people (including myself) don’t know that you can surf on the Great Lakes. Moreover, people don’t know that paddleboards are actually completely capable surfboards. Gnarly.

Lesson 4
If you’re looking to get into longboarding, skateboarding, surfing, paddleboarding or whatever, Beachnut Surf Shop won’t let you down. To schedule a lesson or a rental, check them out online or call 231-352-5249. They have all the gear. Get out and live! 

Bonus Lesson
They have great in-house smoothies. Fuel up before or recharge after in the surf shop just like you’re in Cali! Enjoy Frankfort and enjoy boarding with Beachnut Surf Shop.

Beachnut Surf Shop is located at 1100 Main St. in Frankfort, Michigan.

Surfing in Northern Michigan

Photo(s) by Daniel Oswalt