Wakesurfing on Lake Ontario might be Toronto's most underrated summertime sport
Torontonians may not be able to escape to a tropical paradise this summer to practice their surfing skills, but why leave the city when you can try wakesurfing right at home on Lake Ontario?
The sport probably doesn't immediately come to mind when thinking of the quintessential summer activities in Toronto, but that's precisely why local resident Michelle Kim says more people should give it a try.
Kim has been wakesurfing for the past three summers, and she says it's now become one of her favourite summer pastimes in Toronto.
So how exactly does it work?
"It's basically surfing on the wake made by a boat," Kim said.
"You start by holding on to a rope that's attached to the boat and being pulled up so that you're standing on the board. Once you're standing and comfortable on the board, you can let go of the rope and surf on the wake created by the boat."
Kim said she first tried wakesurfing a few years ago while on vacation in South Korea and Miami, and she enjoyed it so much that she started looking for places to do it near Toronto.
She first discovered several places in Muskoka that offer wakesurfing lessons by the hour, and this summer she found Adam Silver's wakeboard and wakesurf Airbnb experience and has been out on the water several times since July.
The difference between wakeboarding and wakesurfing is the type of board. On a wakeboard the person has their feet strapped into boots connected to the wakeboard but in wakesurfing the feet are free to move around.
Silver is a landlord and property developer in Toronto, but in his spare time he takes people out on his Super Air Nautique 210 and teaches them how to wakeboard and wakesurf.
He's been wakeboarding in Toronto since 2006 after he began practicing the sport back in the late '90s, while wakesurfing is a relatively newer sport that he's only been doing for about four years now.
"My personal love of the two sports really stems from my love of water and board sports in general," Silver said.
"Both sports are very popular in cottage country but downtown in the outer harbour, wakeboard boats are a rare sight. You see the odd one here and there but other than myself, [I] hardly ever see anyone else surfing or wakeboarding."
When asked why he thinks wakeboarding and wakesurfing aren't more popular in Toronto, Silver said he thinks most people believe the water is either too cold, too dirty, or both.
"I think most people just think the water's too dirty or too cold or don't really know that they can actually wakeboard down there," he said.
"But I know kiteboarders that ride down there 10 months a year and they say the water is OK, and I've been riding there for years as well and the water is fine."
According to Silver, the water does tend to be quite chilly as it never exceeds 72 F (about 22 C), but Kim said buying a wetsuit can help if this is the only thing holding someone back from giving it a shot.
"More people should try water sports because time on the boat with family and friends, enjoying sports together, are some of the best memories I have," Silver said. "And more people should experience these kinds of activities and get out of their comfort zone."
Kim, meanwhile, acknowledged that the two water sports aren't the most approachable for those that don't have access to a boat or a lake, and paying for the experience can be quite pricey.
Many places, Kim said, charge upwards of $200 per hour for lessons or boat rentals, but if it's something you can swing, she's sure it'll be worth every penny.
"Find some friends who want to try with you, so you can share the cost of the boat and lessons. It's a real adrenaline rush once you learn to stand and surf on the wake. It's also a great way to spend some time on the water with family and friends," Kim said.
"I've never liked getting into cold water and would have laughed a few years ago if you'd told me I'd be happy jumping into Lake Ontario. But since discovering wakesurfing, I'm out on the water every chance I get."
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