Lake Surfistas get women surfing on the Great Lakes

Large group of women posed for group photo with boards in the lake

Like many professional sports, the world of surfing is heavily male-dominated. When we think of surfing, we tend to think of the ocean, and of men — and yet a community in Ontario is seeing a surge of surfers on the Great Lakes, and most of them are women.

The Lake Surfistas are pumped about the flood of women surfers. The grassroots organization’s goal is to help women of all ages and abilities get into surfing and stand-up paddleboarding (SUP). They put on workshops helping women get comfortable in the water and on boards, hold community gatherings, and each year put on an event on Lake Erie bringing together a vast network of women surfers.

“Surfing in general is a huge thing that’s growing on the Great Lakes,” Robin Pacquing, one of the Surfistas’ founders, told the Welland Tribune. “But in that, we’re seeing the biggest new wave of people going into it are women.”

Pacquing has been surfing on the Great Lakes for over ten years, and in that decade, she has frequently found herself to be the only woman out on a board. So she started the Lake Surfistas (then known as Ladies of the Lakes) as a Facebook group where women could talk and commiserate about surfing and SUP — and plan future surfing trips.

“Having a place to bring everyone together, including the kids, it builds confidence, builds community,” Pacquing told the Toronto Star. “Everywhere I’ve surfed around, you see a woman in the lineup in a sea of men, you smile at each other.”

Surfing lakes is itself a break from the norm. If you didn’t know it was possible, you’re not alone.” Growing up I had no idea you could [s]urf Lake Erie! Lucky we live here!” wrote surfer Christian Edie on a Facebook video that showed her shredding some surprisingly large waves.

Lakes’ waves are generated by wind, so they’re not as reliable and even as lakes on the ocean, but this challenge only adds to many of the surfers’ enthusiasm.

“Everyone is just so stoked to be able to get a wave. In the ocean, it’s expected,” Nadia Austin of Grimsby, Ontario, said.

So if you live near any of the Great Lakes and wish you could get out on the surf, don’t think you have to trek all the way to Tofino. The perfect opportunity is already right in front of you.

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