Surf’s Up: Montreal river surfing rides wave of popularity on St. Lawrence
Cars and vans parked by the water’s edge, with surfboard racks lined with boards and wetsuits air-drying.
No, it’s not the scene of a California beach — it’s the main waterfront boulevard in the Montreal borough of LaSalle.
Hundreds of surfers from Montreal and abroad flock to catch and ride, on “Guy’s wave,” as it is affectionately called.
Surfboards both long and short, foam and fibreglass dot the grass just above the river’s two access points.
The surfing craze started in 2004, when a local whitewater kayaker who rode the waves decided to trade in the kayak for a surfboard.
Using the St. Lawrence River current, a nearly perfect stationary two-foot wave is created, thanks to a dip in the riverbed.
Guy’s Wave is one of two surfable waves in the city. The other one, bigger and stronger, is next to Habitat 67.
The KSF shop has been ahead of the curve, jumping on the wave and starting a surfboard rental and school service since the beginning.
“We saw the need for a river surfing school,” Alex Pelletier of KSF said.
WATCH: Student river-surfing club braves the waves year-round in Kananaskis
“At first when we started we could expect 60 people during the whole summer,” said Pelletier. “Now we can easily go up 30 to 40 on one big weekend.”
Now, according to Pelletier, the KSF has become a local surf shop selling everything a local Montrealer surfer needs.
Pelletier says hundreds have become avid surfers of the waves.
The river waves are not like those in the ocean.
“Some have surfed for like 10 years in the ocean and than they come here and they can’t surf at all,” said river surfer Mathieu Panneton.
Its like a treadmill, Pelletier said. The surfer stays in the same place as the water flows beneath, being pushed by the lip of the wave.
“It’s really special because this weave is always there. It’s never ending, so you can stay two minutes, five minutes, 10 minutes; you can sleep on this wave,” Pelletier said.
“Addiction is a strong word, but it’s the greatest thing to try and do,” said local surfer Mathew Weston. “It’s a really unique experience.”
After two years, he decided to go out and buy a board, the prices for which can vary from $400 to $1,000.
He says he still gets weird looks when he is out with the bright red board.
“When [I] leave my apartment with my board and my shorts, people are like, ‘Where that guy going?'” Weston said.
The wave’s popularity has caused long lineups with so many trying to hang-ten.
With surfers taking their turns and the wave only being so big, only a maximum of two can ride it at the same time.
Pelletier says in the future a second, man-made wave is something to consider.
The Montreal surf season starts in mid-May, and for the braver souls, can last at least until late October.
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