Riding the waves

Jill Prenger getting up on her surfboard.

Jill Prenger thought skills she’s learned as a windsurfer would translate as she tried her hand at surfing, but she found herself taking a few dives in the water as she tried to ride Lake Erie’s waves.
“It’s not as easy as it looks. Windsurfing didn’t help me at all,” said Prenger with a laugh.
Prenger, who’s been a dedicated windsurfer for the past six years, said the difference between surfing and windsurfing is stance and weight placement.
“When you’re windsurfing, you’re leaning back more on the board and holding on to the sail.”
She found with surfing, she had to place her weight more forward on the board.
Prenger was one of two women who were on Wyldewood Beach in Port Colborne taking surfing lessons from Surf Ontario’s Mike Sandusky.

Mike Sandusky of Surf Ontario gets blasted by a wave as he holds Jill Prenger’s surfboard.

“This is the first time I’ve tried surfing,” she said, adding she loves being on the water.
The lessons with Sandusky won’t be the last for the Toronto woman. She plans to take more.
“It was really fun.”
Out on the water with Prenger was Rachelle Calingasan of Mississauga.

Rachelle Calingasan of Mississauga surfs past the camera

It was the second time Calingasan has taken surf lessons with Sandusky. She’s also taken stand-up addling (SUP) lessons with him.
She’s been on the waters before trying her hand on a surfboard in locations like Hawaii and San Diego, but said there’s a difference between the waves on the ocean and those on Erie.
“The waves here are non-stop,” she said, adding it was exhausting trying to fight through them.
Asked what she enjoyed about surfing, Calingasan said she feels free.
“There’s nothing but you, the water and your board.”
Both women said Sandusky is a great teacher and would take lessons from him again.
“He’s really positive,” said Calingasan.

Jill Prenger heads out into the surf.

Sandusky, who has been surfing for 12 years, operates Surf Ontario, a shop in Toronto that sells surfboard and stand-up paddle boards as well as other equipment associated with surfing.
He teaches others how to surf on lakes Ontario, Huron and Erie, depending on where the waves are. He uses Environment Canada, the Weather Network, wave models and information from buoys stationed in the lakes to figure out where the surf will be.

Jill Prenger has a laugh after a fall.

Wyldewood Beach, said Sandusky, is a good location to teach new surfers because the waves are a bit shorter than at other nearby locations, the beach is clean and there aren’t any children or adults playing in the water that his students have to worry about crashing into.
“Last week I taught four people down here.”
Holding on to the surfboards of the students and fighting the waves and current is exhausting, he said. That’s why he’ll only teach two people at a time.
“I want to keep sharp and fresh,” said Sandusky, who, after he was finished teaching, grabbed his surfboard and headed off to another location to catch larger waves with other surfers.
For more information on surfing lessons, see Surf Ontario’s website www.surfontario.ca or its Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Surf-Ontario/17309984867.

Fighting for the control of the board.

Hang 10

• Surfing has been taking place on the Great Lakes, locally at Port Colborne and Burlington, and across the border on Lake Superior and at Cleveland for years.
• The Wyldewood Surf Club was founded nearly 40 years ago and has members from both Canada and the United States, who surf the waters of Buffalo, Niagara and Hamilton.
• Niagara-on-the-Lake Surf Club has surfers who also ride the waves in Port Colborne and Fort Erie and who have put on a rescue course for surfers and done beach cleanups.
• Surfing in the area is gaining popularity. Surfers from Rochester, N.Y., New Jersey, Toronto and beyond come down to the area during stormy weather.
• Surfing takes places pretty much all year round, provided the lakes aren’t frozen over.

Rachelle Calingasan is happy after a successful ride.

Rachelle Calingasan, left, and Jill Prenger

Rachelle Calingasan surfs past the camera as Jill Prenger watches


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