2017-03-16 / News

Don Massey Catches Some Waves on Lake Huron This March

By Erich T. Doerr


Chicago resident Don Massey, formerly of St. Ignace, catches a wave on Lake Huron while surfing at a private location in the Les Cheneaux Islands area Sunday, March 5. Surfing has been increasing in popularity on the Great Lakes in recent years as surfers take advantage of its waves while enjoying the benefits of fresh water, including a lack of natural obstacles such as coral and sea urchins. (Photograph courtesy of Christa Cowell) Chicago resident Don Massey, formerly of St. Ignace, catches a wave on Lake Huron while surfing at a private location in the Les Cheneaux Islands area Sunday, March 5. Surfing has been increasing in popularity on the Great Lakes in recent years as surfers take advantage of its waves while enjoying the benefits of fresh water, including a lack of natural obstacles such as coral and sea urchins. (Photograph courtesy of Christa Cowell) When the sport of surfing comes to mind, the images that come with it likely feature a setting along the sun-drenched beaches of California or Hawaii, but that’s far from the only place it is practiced. In reality, surfing is common anywhere there are waves and it is increasing in popularity in the Great Lakes. Former St. Ignace resident Don Massey, now of Chicago, hit the water to catch a few waves recently on Lake Huron, enjoying a few Sunday, March 5, at a private spot he likes somewhere in the Les Cheneaux Islands area.

Mr. Massey has been living in Chicago for almost 10 years and works rigging up sailboats. He’s a regular competitor in sailboat races, including the annual Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac Island. One interest led to another, as he learned to surf a decade ago while in San Diego for a sailboat race.

Surfing is growing in popularity on the Great Lakes, with new surf shops already starting to pop up in the Chicago area. The sport is also becoming more common in the Marquette area. Mr. Massey said interest in freshwater surfing is increasing because of both its quality and the fact that it lacks many of the natural hazards that come with ocean surfing, such as coral, sea urchins, sharks, and stingrays. He also noted that ocean surfing can get congested at times because of the large number of surfers that are often in the water at once, requiring additional attention to avoid collisions.

“Surfing is just fun,” Mr. Massey said. “I’ll catch 10 waves in an hour here, as opposed to one or none in California.”

Mr. Massey has already surfed on four of the five Great Lakes, with only Lake Ontario remaining. On March 5 he thought about surfing on Lake Michigan, because it had bigger waves, but ultimately decided to go with Lake Huron instead because the waves were higher quality. He likes to surf whenever there is no ice in the water. Surfing is still possible with ice and he has done so, but it does increase the need for caution.

Surfing in the winter requires a lot of heavy gear, with Mr. Massey donning a 6-millimeter thick wetsuit, boots, and gloves for his recent rides. Even with that, it’s still quite a cold activity, but very enjoyable. He said the waves on March 5 were almost ocean-like in their nature. Winter surfing is only for the hardy, but that means the waves are usually free of other surfers.

Mr. Massey has surfed in California, Hawaii, El Salvador, Nicaragua, South Korea, and Indonesia. He said the sport is great for enjoying the scenery; including the various colors and clarities of the water.

Mr. Massey spoke to The St. Ignace News Monday, March 13, before departing the Midwest to take part in a sailboat race from Miami to Havana, Cuba. Cuba also has a growing surfing scene but it has had trouble acquiring equipment. Mr. Massey will donate one of his boards to a local club while visiting the island nation, with a surfing store from St. Joseph also providing additional supplies.

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