East Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia
May–November Summer brings gentle waves to the sandy shores of this beach located half an hour east of downtown Halifax – perfect conditions for beginners looking to master the basics. Skilled surfers are most likely to go out during hurricane season (August to November), when head-high swells provide greater challenges (diehards are even known to paddle out in winter). From the end of May to the beginning of October, visitors wanting to commune with nature can opt to sleep under the stars (in luxury bell tents, of course) with a package from East Coast Glamping, which includes a private one-hour surf lesson for two to four people from the pros at East Coast Surf School.
Nootka Island, British Columbia
Calvin Bay or Bajo Point
May–August Tofino’s beaches are ideal for first-timers, but the rugged landscape of Nootka Island, off the west coast of Vancouver Island, is a haven for experienced surfers looking for big barrels and a little peace in the Pacific Northwest. Instead of throngs of other surfers, you’re more likely to encounter black bears, deer and wolves. You’ll need to take a seaplane or boat to get to this remote island; rustic accommodations consist of several eco-lodges tucked away in the coastal rainforest. Calvin Bay and Bajo Point, on the island’s west side, are two of the best spots to tackle the tides.
St. Lawrence River
May–October You won’t waste any time waiting for a surge at Montreal’s Habitat 67, the popular surf break named after Moshe Safdie’s famed Expo 67 housing complex (visible from the same spot). That’s because Habitat 67 is a standing wave, created when fast-moving water flows over rocks at the bottom of the river. It’s always in the same spot and almost constantly running – a real treat if you just want to practise staying on your board. Those with little experience can take a lesson with local outfit KSF and master the basics at the nearby bunny wave before graduating to the real deal.
The Great Lakes
September–March The world’s largest group of freshwater lakes is home to a vibrant surf commu-nity on both sides of the border. Torontonians looking to trade in their briefcase for a longboard can catch a ride on Lake Ontario at Scarborough Bluffs, where strong southwesterly winds and a man-made rocky peninsula help create perfect waves. Further west, the town of Kincardine welcomes surfers on Lake Huron with consistent swells and a floor that drops quickly, creating powerful waves. Lake surfing is dependent on weather, with the best conditions often recorded in winter, when storms produce the largest swells.
Whiteshell Park, Manitoba
Sturgeon Falls Rapids
May–June With over a half-dozen whitecaps, Sturgeon Falls, located about 90 minutes northeast of Winnipeg in Whiteshell Provincial Park, is an adventure-seeker’s paradise. The series of rapids (there’s no actual waterfall here) are just off an island in the middle of Nutimik Lake. Waves range from a barely metre-high swell, to the 2.5-metre Big Mouth, which surges and crashes every 20 seconds. It’s a long paddle out to the island, so plan to rent a jet ski if you’re not a strong swimmer.
Year-round Learn to hang ten on Tsunami, the latest attraction at West Edmonton Mall’s indoor waterpark. This simulated double sheet wave (you can ride side by side with a friend) provides a constant flow via water pumps, allowing patrons as young as 10 to pop up on the board in a controlled environment. Start from scratch with a lesson at the park’s surf school, then hone your skills as a member of the surf club, which also runs after-hours drop-in sessions.