Grab your board and head for Hawaii, California or Lorain. Seriously?
You won’t see a large crowd of surfers waxing their boards and partying at Lakeside Landing (a.k.a. Spitzer Beach) on Lake Erie. But you may encounter a group of local dedicated surfers with at least intermediate surfing skills and others from out of state who know a unique surfing opportunity when they ride it.
“Lorain is not the most consistent (surf) break in Ohio, but when it does, it is definitely the best in the state. And it’s the best on the United States side of Lake Erie,” according to longtime Lorain surfer Matthew Park, considered to be among the best and most passionate surfers at Lakeside Landing.
That exceptional quality of surfing is due to the lake’s relatively deep water in the area, the right wind conditions and sandbars created by the cove and a breakwall, which create rare oceanlike waves. Park says the area’s 200-plus miles of uninterrupted fetch (an area of lake surface over which wind blows in a constant direction) generate the waves.
Park is a skateboarder whose background helped him develop the balance, timing and strength needed to be a surfer. He started surfing the lake along Lorain’s eastern beach in 2002, following early local surfers in the mid-1990s. Currently he is the secretary of the Surfrider Foundation Northern Ohio chapter, an environmental and surfing advocacy group.
Lakeside Landing is “an area with a submerged land lease,” and owned by the Lorain Port Authority, according to Director Tom Brown. It was not well known as a hot surfing spot until 2021 when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers looked for a site for dredged materials and to create a wetland. The result would have been the end to gnarly surfing. Surfrider Foundation and a grassroots group, Save Our Spitzer (of which Parks was a vocal member), successfully persuaded the federal government that Lorain needed surfing for the recreation and health of its citizens, as well as its positive economic impact.
Today surfers carry their boards to Lakeside Landing all year-round. Park recommends owning a variety of surf wetsuits to accommodate lake temperature, which can range from freezing to mild.
“Any sport comes with risks, and I would suggest you know your abilities, always surf with a friend, and if it doesn’t feel right that day, don’t go,” advises Park. “Surfing is good for you. It provides exercise and a connection to nature. Whenever you are surfing, you don’t think of anything else.”
Before you hang ten, members of Surfrider Foundation Northern Ohio suggest you meet local surfers and attend some events. Surfrider Foundation (which has a local chapter Facebook following of about 700) is planning some Tuesday and Thursday social and surfing evenings this summer for established members and the curious.
A real novice? Rent or borrow a board. Talk to locals or instructors. Practice on the beach — “paddle” while on your belly, and learn how to stand up. Be comfortable in the water and don’t go out too far when you are just beginning.
“You see people surfing or paddleboarding, but you also see families playing with their kids in the sand. Spitzer Beach (Lakeside Landing) is a great spot, a hidden gem,” says Lara Roketenetz, Surfrider Foundation’s volunteer coordinator and an avid paddleboarder.