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Surf Mission aims to activate surf community in Collingwood

Freshwater surfers trade sand and sunshine for frigid fall storms

The air has started to cool, which means temperatures are dropping and the wind is picking up. It can only mean one thing: The surf season is upon us.

While many surfers opt for sandy shores and sunshine, Great Lake groupies eagerly await the frigid fall temperatures to wax their boards and wash down their wetsuits.

“On the lakes, we basically surf the eye of the storm,” says Antonio Lennert, founder and co-owner of Surf the Greats. “The stronger the winds, the nastier the day, the better for us.”

Surf the Greats teamed up with Georgian Bay Surf Club and Primitive Patterns to share their excitement in a kick-off event at Gibson & Co. late last month.

The second annual Surf Mission, which featured a number of surf-inspired events including a wave forecasting workshop and film screenings, was designed to “activate” the surfing community. 

“We play into the surf mission as a way to recruit surfers and spread the gospel,” laughs Lennert. “We want to bring like-minded people together, so once we leave, they stay connected.” 

Lennert created Surf the Greats five years ago as a way to bring more inspiration and education to the lake surfing community. Their brick and mortar shop is located in Toronto’s east end, but their mission — and hashtag — is shared all over Ontario.

Great Lake surfing dates back to the 60s, but it wasn’t until recently that the sport really took off. With advances in wet and dry suits, as well as an active online community, more and more people are surfing in the lakes than ever before. 

Lennert was born and raised surfing in Southern Brazil. When he moved to Canada with his life partner and now business partner, Lucas Murnaghan, Lennert was pleasantly surprised to learn he could continue his passion in the freshwater.

“I started to see a lot of people getting into the sport, but there wasn’t a lot of information or support. People were putting their lives at risk, it was alarming,” Lennert says.

In a matter of months, Lennert travelled to Costa Rica to get his certifications as a surf coach and surf rescuer.

“I came back here with the goal to educate and grow the community.”

Kurtis Eichenberger founded Georgian Bay Surf Club for similar reasons.

Born and raised in Collingwood, Eichenberger spent a lot of time travelling around the world to surf before he realized his passion was possible in his backyard.

“I was aware there are OGs who have been surfing the bay forever, but there is this new wave of young surfers coming in,” says Eichenberger. “Georgian Bay breaks on to shale, it’s super dangerous. I want to promote safe surfing but also preserve the secrecy of our surfing spots.”

“I can’t be the founder of this club but also give away all the good spots,” he laughs as he continues. 

Eichenberger’s goal is simple: To create a community of like-minded individuals that can hangout, talk surfing, and hit the water together. 

An event like the Surf Mission is a perfect example.

“We have a hundred people in the same room who are all craving the same thing,” Eichenberger says. “It’s exactly what I am going for.”

Eichenberger and Lennert met while surfing many years ago and have since become friends.

“To see what Antonio has done now is pretty crazy,” says Eichenberger.

Lennert is equally as inspired by the strong community Collingwood offers, both in and out of the water. 

“We’ve been coming here to surf for over six years. It’s been great to watch how Kurtis has activated the community in Collingwood,” Lennert says. 

Out of respect for the local community, neither Lennert or Eichenberger will reveal their favourite lake breaks, but they say there are plenty of places to get your feet wet if you’re interested in learning the sport.

If you missed the Surf Mission, there are many opportunities to get your feet wet. Surf the Greats offers sporadic surf lessons throughout the fall and winter, and many local shops provide rentals if you are an avid surfer but have never tested your talent in freshwater.

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Maddie Johnson

About the Author: Maddie Johnson

Maddie Johnson is an early career journalist working in financial, small business, adventure and lifestyle reporting. She studied Journalism at the University of King's College, and worked in Halifax, Malta and Costa Rica before settling in Collingwood
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