A Lake Surfer's Experience from the Shop to the Beach

October 27, 2017

A Lake Surfer's Experience from the Shop to the Beach

When Scott Arseneault emailed us an update on his new board and how he was progressing his surfing on the Great Lakes, we were so impressed by his detailed account that we asked him to write a blog post of his experience.

Scott can be found surfing in Hamilton and Bayfield. All photos are from Bayfield and courtesy of Terri Low. Check out her Instagram page for more. 

Progressing on the lakes is a process - from the shop to the beach

Guest writer Scott Arseneault 

As summer torpedoed towards autumn – and the surf went dormant after several weeks of fairly consistent conditions (by lake standards of course!) – I sat down to reflect on my surfing experience and realized my growth and progression has been fostered by learning to understand the importance of selecting equipment that compliments the surfer’s skill level and style – and the varying surf conditions the gear will be used in.

After several weeks of reading and researching possible options – along with a steady stream of question-riddled emails traded with Mike and Kristen at the shop - I finally made it to Toronto to replace a custom 9’4 longboard that was badly damaged in January. For obvious reasons, I had a Walden Magic model in mind when I arrived, but was also picking up a soft top SUP for my son so sticking as close to our budget as possible was also a consideration. With this in mind Jeff suggested I check out the Torq surfboards since they were very affordable and had generated a lot of great feedback from those who had ridden them.

After walking up and down the rows of boards until the carpet was nearly bare, I finally decided on the 9'0 Torq longboard – heading out of the shop a little under budget and stoked to have a new lake log in my possession.

Since then I have surfed it about ten times and here is what I have found so far:

  • My wave count instantly shot way up – especially on smaller days where I previously struggled on my last board
  • Although I was leery about going from the 9'4 I was struggling on to the shorter nine footer, I am not missing the extra length at all – it has plenty of volume, paddles easier – and is forgiving enough to allow for less-than-perfect takeoffs, especially on bigger days
  • The board seems to fit better into the space between our closely stacked lake waves
  • My bottom turn is finally starting to show signs of existence
  • Maybe - and most importantly for me – the Torq is really made to take a beating which is always good when the wind gets ripping 30-40 kph on the beach, in the water, or worse in the parking lot... or when I'm fumbling around in the garage at 4am getting ready to make the three hour drive to Lake Huron (Is it safe to say every surfer dreads that awful sound of their board crunching against brick, steel, or some other immovable object as they try to load up in the dark for an early morning surf?)

On August 5th I made the drive to Bayfield for one of the best days I’ve experienced on the lakes. The waves were cracking off the outside breakwall with a force I have only seen and heard during heavy winter storms. Before getting in the water that day, I heard people on the pier saying that a couple boats had slipped their moorings earlier in the morning and incurred a fair amount of damage – obviously not the kind of weather conditions boat owners like to see, but for lake surfers it was just about perfect!

Crashing waves at Bayfield Pier surfing Lake Huron Ontario

Most of the people in the water that day were on shorter boards and I wasn't sure what to expect since I had previously taken some pretty good beatings on bigger days at Bayfield, Kincardine and Bluffs Cove, on my last board. To my amazement the Torq really performed beyond expectation – I managed to connect a few sections and ride to shore from the breakwall all the way south of the main beach area several times in a truly memorable day. It felt like I was able to wring every last bit of energy out of each wave I caught. I found myself surfing more parallel to the beach rather than riding straight in, and adjusting my speed to stay ahead of the breaking part of the waves. After years of learning and putting time in to get better, it was encouraging to finally see some progress.

It was like all the things I worked on, struggled with, got frustrated about, humbled by, and repeated, were finally starting to come together, and I could see that my surfing was actually starting to evolve ever so slightly. At times I even felt like I had a little bit of style on the waves – I’m not talking ‘Gerry Lopez at Pipeline soul-surfer style’, but I definitely felt connected like never before. Like I said it is a day I won't soon forget.

Since then I've found myself getting more and more confident and have even started to walk the board some, even pumping it to gain speed in certain conditions, which I never really thought of doing on a longboard. I still have days when I almost feel like I’m starting out all over again, but the good days and good rides always outweigh the rough ones.

Lake surfing bayfield huron ontario

All in all I couldn't be happier with the board – I realize it may not be as responsive as more expensive models but for where I'm at right now, it is the perfect option.

With the lakes once again blessing us with some surf, I am back to anxiously studying the wave forecast data, and pining for the next session! I now completely understand what people mean when they say surfing is not a sport but a path – and I can’t think of a better path to be on! 

For the record we surprised my son with the Riviera soft top SUP for his third birthday and he loves it!  He got a few opportunities to catch some little peelers laying on his belly, with a push from mom and dad this summer and all he can say is more, more, more! He talks excitedly about being able to paddle it himself next summer, and it’s very fulfilling to see him learning to love the water like we do.

Thanks to everyone at the shop for the advice, and willingness to share the wealth of knowledge they possess – it has been a tremendous resource for me as I become completely consumed by surfing and stand up paddling. As we embrace the fall surf season, I am thankful for having the opportunity to share the freshwater stoke and for all the great people I’ve met since being tuned in to the Great Lakes surf community! 

Mahalo

Scott Arseneault

Instagram: @gr8_lakes_glide