7 Incredible Destinations for Paddleboard Surfing in Ontario

Catch powerful Great Lakes swells at these top SUP surf spots.

Surfing in Ontario? It may not get as much press as Canada’s West Coast, but with 17,000 kilometres of coastline on four Great Lakes, Ontario boasts some of the finest paddleboard surfing east of the Rockies. Its under-the-radar reputation means the province is also home to a small but welcoming SUP surfing community.

If you are new to the sport, or coming to SUP surfing from other paddleboard disciplines, first connect with local outfitters to learn more about surf-specific equipment, etiquette and technique. Surfing here is a bit tricky—taking a lesson can be a great way to test new gear, gain confidence in the waves, and explore new locations safely. Talk to other surfers and ask for advice before entering unfamiliar waters; they can show you the easiest places to paddle out and point out hazards that may exist, like rip currents, undertows, rocks or debris in the water.

Because paddleboard surfing on the Great Lakes is largely dependent on the weather creating the swells, a wind or surf forecast site like Windy, Ikitesurf, Surf-forecast, Great Lakes Surf Radar or Surfline is essential to get a sense of where waves will be and when. You can also sign up for a forecasting workshop to familiarize yourself with surf weather patterns in Ontario.

Swell-generating wind and weather patterns across the Great Lakes are most powerful in the cooler months, from late summer to spring, when cold air masses meet warmer waters. Novice SUP surfers can enjoy amazing waves—and relatively mild temperatures—from mid-August through November. But the hardiest members of Ontario’s bold coldwater surf community chase the largest swells right through the snow and ice of winter.

Either way, you’ll need a wetsuit, gloves and booties. For cold-water surfing, look for a steamer or full wetsuit that covers your entire body, often including a built-in hood. Made from neoprene, winter wetsuit thickness ranges from 5 mm to 7 mm, while 3 mm to 4 mm is suitable for late summer and fall.

Whether you’re a beginner looking for your first ride on mellow summer waves, or an experienced surfer seeking out the powerful swells of fall and winter storms, read on for the best places to SUP surf in Ontario.

Man wearing wetsuit and ball cap surfing on a SUP
Take SUP surfing lessons with SurfSup Eco Shop year-round. Photo: Lawrence Griffin // SurfSup Eco Shop

Kincardine, Lake Huron

This small picturesque town overlooking the beautiful sand beaches of Ontario’s “West Coast” has emerged as the province’s freshwater surfing capital. With more than 17 kilometres of Lake Huron coastline, Kincardine has the perfect combination of water depth, underwater terrain and wind currents to create clean peeling waves. During the spring and fall, you can get as many as 50 days of solid surfing.

Like any Great Lakes surfing destination, timing is everything. Swells here are fickle; they can come up fast and sometimes vanish in as little as three hours. Other times, the swell can last all day, giving surfers unlimited action. Check the forecast—when a strong wind is blowing from the northwest, the waves start rolling in at Kincardine’s Station Beach.

Located next to the harbour and downtown, Station Beach is surrounded by parkland with a heated washroom/changehouse, hot showers, free parking, a boardwalk and a concrete pier providing convenient access to the waves (jump in at the end to save your strength for catching rides). The town has fully embraced surf culture, with two local shops renting equipment and providing lessons.

  • SurfSup Eco Shop offers surf and SUP rentals and lessons year-round as long as the lake is ice-free. Certified instructors will help you get comfortable on your board before hitting the waves, with all necessary gear included with lessons. Located at 889 Queen Street in Kincardine. If you’re surfing up or down the Huron coast, check out their sister stores in Goderich and Grand Bend.
  • West Shore Surf Shoppe offers surf clothing and equipment sales from their historic shop front at 792 Queen Street. The West Shore Surf Mobile Shop Van can also meet you at the beach for full-day, half-day or weekly paddleboard rentals and SUP fitness classes.
a man SUP surfing at Pancake Bay
Superior East Board Shop in Sault Ste. Marie is the place to go to get kitted out. Photo: Vesa Luomaranta // Superior East Board Shop

Pancake Bay, Lake Superior

The focal point of this charming provincial park one hour north of Sault Ste. Marie is its three-kilometre-long crescent of fine sandy beachfront on a wide, azure bay. With its superlative beach and sprawling lakeside campground, Pancake Bay is bustling with families, water lovers and campers in the summer. Beginning in late August, however, windier conditions over the Big Lake can start throwing two- to three-metre swells against the sandy shore, drawing surfers from across Algoma and beyond.

Pancake Bay tends to be a bit warmer than more exposed locations on Lake Superior, but ice often forms along the shore here in winter, creating a hazard for surfers. Head to the park in late summer through fall for comfortable temperatures and ice-free waves. The main beach offers kilometres of sandbar breaks that get big on southwest and south winds. More experienced surfers can follow the shoreline west to rockier shores and a point break that blows up on strong northwesterlies.

The provincial park closes mid-October, but it’s a short walk to the beach from Trans-Canada Highway 17. If you’re here earlier, hot food and souvenirs of your Superior sojourn are available just down the road at The Chicken Shack and Agawa Crafts.

  • Pancake Bay Provincial Park offers campsites, yurts and a rustic cabin—all steps to the beach. Camping opens in early May and closes in mid-October.
  • Just 10 minutes away, The Voyageurs’ Lodge & Cookhouse satisfies surfers’ appetites with a grab-and-go deli and bake shop serving up “world-famous” apple fritters (you won’t be disappointed); open mid-April to late October.
  • Superior East Board Shop in Sault Ste. Marie is a rider-owned surf, SUP and snow shop with quality rental gear and new and used equipment sales.

Terrace Bay, Lake Superior

It just takes a handful of passionate surfers to turn a good break into a great surfing destination. Look no further than this humble pulp town turned sleepy surfing hot spot on the north shore of Lake Superior.

For the past seven years, local surfers Chris and Cassidy Dube—in partnership with the Lakehead University Surfing Club—have introduced surfers from far and wide to Superior swells at the annual Waasaashkaa Gathering of Great Lakes Surfers. While the event is currently on hiatus, Terrace Bay’s rugged shorelines, crystal clear green waters and pristine sand beaches continue to deliver some of the most consistent, powerful waves on the Great Lakes.

Locals thank the incredible depth and enormous fetch of this vast inland sea for ocean-like waves from fall through spring. With sustained winds and frequent storms, September through December offer the most reliable surf conditions. Four- to six-footers are common at Pumphouse Beach, a popular break right in town. Or grab your board and head to nearby Hydro Bay, a scenic horseshoe-shaped sandy beach that collects foaming freshwater curlers on strong south or southeast winds.

If the wind isn’t cooperating, Terrace Bay offers amazing calm water paddleboarding—tour up the Aguasabon River to view an awesome gorge and waterfall, or follow the Lake Superior shoreline west to pretty Lyda Bay for picnicking and hiking on the Casque Isles Trail.

  • Check out Waasaashkaa Surf on Instagram or Facebook to connect with the local surf community. Surfers here are as dedicated as you’ll find anywhere, and the remote isolation of this spot makes for a friendly and inclusive atmosphere.
  • Based in Thunder Bay, NatriBros Surf & SUP has instructors and rental equipment available.
a person surfing on a paddleboard
Manitoulin Island is the perfect place to catch waves. Photo: SUP Adventures Manitoulin

Providence Bay, Lake Huron

Tucked on the south shore of Manitoulin Island, Providence Bay epitomizes the laid-back, lakeside vibes of this peaceful northern island. Much of Manitoulin’s extensive shoreline is composed of gleaming white limestone—the most northerly reach of the Niagara Escarpment—with shelves and shoals that can be hazardous for surfers. Providence Bay is a welcome exception.

A sweeping curve of golden sand backs inviting aquamarine waters. Even better, the slope and shape of the bay mould southwesterly winds into row after row of perfect peaks. The sunsets are pretty great, too. After sessioning in the swell, stroll into the tiny village of Providence Bay for fabulous coffee, baked goodies or fish and chips at the Peace Cafe.

Wawa, Lake Superior

Situated at the mouth of the Michipicoten River near Wawa, this breathtaking outpost on the boreal coast of Lake Superior offers a Great Lakes rarity: reliable summer surf.

Powerful currents flowing out of the river wrap around the tip of two-kilometre-long Driftwood Beach, creating ever-shifting sandbars. When these currents collide with incoming lake swell, the results can range from glassy standing waves to crashing barrels. Waves can form at any time of year—all that’s required are sustained southwest winds, most common late August through fall.

Wawa hosts a small surfing community, with Naturally Superior Adventures being a fantastic resource for travelling paddleboarders. This paddling centre and lodge is located on a rocky point right beside the river mouth. Stay here for a front row view of the lake and connect with local guides who know these swirling waters intimately. Highlights of surfing the Michipicoten River include (relatively) warm water and easy cruising back out to the take-off zone thanks to the outflowing current.

When conditions in “the mouth” become too daunting, head to nearby Sandy Beach or Long Beach for shallow sandbar breaks with knee- or waist-high rollers.

  • Naturally Superior Adventures offers SUP rentals, lessons and surf clinics for all abilities; guided day trips are a highlight when the wind is calm.
  • Rock Island Lodge is an incomparable pied- à-terre for visiting surfers, with beachfront camping, a spectacular glamping dome and lakeside rooms.

Montreal River Harbour, Lake Superior

Wherever you surf and paddle on Lake Superior, you’ll be surrounded by rugged and remote natural beauty. That’s especially true at this hinterland surf spot near the southern boundary of Lake Superior Provincial Park.

Montreal River Harbour is one of those places where you definitely want to go with a local surfer your first time. Unpredictable currents pump out of the Montreal River’s narrow outlet, and steep cobble beaches create precarious footing and powerful rips. Resembling the pincers of a great Precambrian beetle, the sheer granite headlands guarding the harbour refract and reflect incoming swell, so the outer bay often resembles a washing machine. But when offshore easterlies meet a clean west swell travelling all the way from Minnesota, it’s surfing Nirvana.

The access to Montreal River Harbour is on private land; the owners currently allow day use parking and launching from the ramp just inside the river mouth. Check the surf forecast for nearby Alona Bay before you go.

  • Twilight Resort has direct access to Montreal River Harbour with private beach access and stunning sunset views; choose from campsites, cozy cabins or RV sites. There’s also an on-site chip wagon for post-session cravings. Open mid-April to late October.
  • Lake Superior Provincial Park’s Agawa Bay Campground offers idyllic serviced and unserviced campsites beside a stunning wilderness beach (mid-May to mid-October).
people SUP surfing on Lake Ontario
Brave the coldest days on Lake Ontario for the best waves. Photo: Raymond Hui Photography

Lake Ontario

Paddleboard surfers in Southern Ontario are spoiled for choice when it comes to breaks close to home. Popular spots include Ashbridges Bay and Ward’s Island in Toronto; Bluffers Park in Scarborough; Beachway Park in Burlington; breaks at Cobourg and Port Hope; and Presqu'ile Point and Sandbanks Provincial Park in Prince Edward County.

Swell from the southwest, south and southeast offers the best surf potential. But with so many options, it can be tricky for beginners to know where to find the cleanest waves on any given day. Fortunately, Toronto has two fabulous surf shops with great resources and community-building for aspiring surfers.

From forecasting workshops to gear rentals and expert staff, Surf the Greats is a great place to start out as a new coldwater surfer. When the waves are flat, grab a coffee and hang out at this independent shop committed to fostering a fun and inclusive Ontario surf community.

Surf Ontario has been a go-to for surfing and standup paddleboarding gear since 2002, including boards and wetsuits. They also provide a handy Great Lakes Surf Report.

  • The Surf School at Surf the Greats has rentals and lessons for all abilities. If you’re nervous about catching a wave, try their Flat Water Intro to Surf Clinic on a calm day, then sign up for their mailing list to be notified the next time the waves are rolling into shore. Carver clinics and forecasting workshops are also offered.
  • Surf Ontario has a huge selection of boards and gear, and arranges surf and SUP lessons and rentals for every type of surfer.
About Virginia Marshall

Virginia Marshall is a freelance outdoor adventure writer, photographer and editor with roots in Muskoka and Lake Superior. Read her work in Adventure Kayak, Canoeroots, Rapid, Paddling Magazine and Backroad Mapbooks.

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