Surfers ride the waves in Lake Ontario
Sandie Benitah, cp24.com
Published Saturday, March 31, 2012 3:51PM EDT
Windy conditions in Toronto kept most people away from the beach Saturday morning but dozens of surfers flocked to Scarborough Bluffs to take part in a friendly competition over the waves.
About 40 surfers donned in full head-to-toe wet suits showed up at the beach at around 8 a.m. The temperatures hovered around the freezing mark but that didn't dissuade any of them from jumping into the water ready to catch a wave, which topped seven feet at one point.
Mike Sandusky, the 33-year-old owner of Eastern Avenue surf shop Surf Ontario, organized the event – something he said he tries to do at least twice a year.
When Sandusky showed up at the beach at 6:30 a.m, he was disappointed with the height of the waves on Lake Ontario but his spirits picked up at around 9 a.m. when wind gusts gave the water just enough choppiness to make things interesting for the competitors.
"It's really picking up, this is great!" he said while judging the surfers from the shore alongside about 50 spectators.
Toronto's surfing community used to be the city's best-kept secret, he said. But now, in the last year or so, word has spread to surfers looking to enjoy their sport closer to home.
"Everyone has a really good vibe out here," he said. "It's friendly and open to everyone."
The prizes given out after the competition reflect the laid-back spirit of the surfing community.
T-shirts, hats, towels and trophies were handed out for "chicks that rip," "best wipeout," "wave hog," "drop in champ" and "most rad maneuver."
Spreading the word
Sandusky has certainly helped spread the word – and the love – about surfing in the city. Aside from his surfing competition, the Maui trained surfer has been teaching the sport in Toronto for the last 10 years and helps spread the word about local surfing events through a growing mailing list.
Antoine Markon, 32, grew up surfing in a Quebec river but heard about Ontario's natural waves when he moved here about a year ago.
"When I heard, I was so excited to come here," he said.
Markon has only been competing for two years but on Saturday, he was ready to give it his best. He advised people who want to start surfing to keep a close eye on the weather and be ready to dive in at anytime.
"There is no best time to surf, just the best temperature," he said. "You can surf all year long in Ontario if the conditions are right. We were out here on Jan. 8 and there was no ice and the water was a crystal blue."
Tim Jensen, 26, is one of those people who just recently caught the surfing bug. He had heard about Toronto's surfing community from a few of his friends who were involved in the sport before he went to Mexico over the Christmas break. When he returned from vacation, he decided to look into it for himself.
Jensen showed up at the competition alone on Saturday to watch the event.
"It's my first time seeing it on the lake and it's pretty awesome," he said.
He said he figures between a surfboard and a wet suit, he needs about $1,000 to get started.
"Once you got that settled, the waves are free," he said laughing.
Mark Kortschot, a 50-year-old surfing enthusiast who came out to ride the waves but didn't enter the competition, said Toronto is a great place for those looking to get into the sport.
"People here share the waves, it could be a lot more competitive," he said. "It's what we have. It's not as good as the ocean but on a good day, it's great."