When you think of Canada, does surfing come to mind? In the city of Montreal it’s possible to surf perpetual waves on the mighty Saint Lawrence River.
Known for its strong currents and whitewater rapids, Montreal’s Saint Lawrence River is a favorite spot for kayaking and rafting trips. But local surfers also take advantage of the unique conditions here.
Every day you’ll find a handful of surfers riding river waves.
Wanting to try it for myself, I filled a cooler with refreshing Cayman Jack Margaritas and drove up to Montreal for a few days of river surfing on the outskirts of the city.
I knew that after spending a few days in the sun, cooling off with the taste of Cayman Jack – blue agave nectar, organic limes and real cane sugar – would be exactly what I’d need.
Only a handful of rivers around the world boast standing waves large enough to ride using a surfboard. River waves are created by high volumes of water flowing over rocks, producing a large wave in the process.
Surfers are able to float into this wave and ride the water flow for as long as they want without actually moving anywhere — unlike with ocean waves.
Even experienced ocean surfers have trouble adapting to river waves.
Instead of a nice gradual slope, a river wave resembles more of a half-pipe shape. This unfortunately makes it easier to catch your surfboard nose in the water — resulting in a wipeout.
Habitat 67 Surf Spot
There are a few different waves you can surf on the Saint Lawrence River. The one most people learn on is called “Bunny Wave” near the Lachine Rapids area. Once you master that, you can move up to Habitat 67.
Habitat 67 is a much larger & faster wave located behind a famous building with the same name. Surfers park by the tennis courts and walk down a dirt path in back.
Everyone was polite (it’s Canada!) and rode the wave for only a few minutes before waving the next person over. While waiting for my turn, I passed the time sharing surf stories and tasty Cayman Jack Margaritas with others in the lineup.
They appreciated a refreshing margarita before tackling another wave. Inspired by my partnership with Cayman Jack, I thought about how important it is to craft your own journey when you travel.
This means embracing everything that comes along with a new adventure. The planning, the anticipation, the challenges, the people you meet — the little pieces that produce a complete journey.
How To Surf A River
River surfing can be challenging. The general process is to start upriver, paddle out, and carefully maneuver into position before turning backwards at the last second letting the current drag you into the sweet spot with the most whitewater.
Once you drop into this liquid half-pipe, paddle hard as you get sucked backwards. If you don’t put in enough effort, the river’s powerful surge will drag you over the top and down through the rapids.
Ride the surfboard on your stomach for a while first to get a feel for the wave.
Once you’re comfortable, pop up and maintain your balance. Because it’s a perpetual wave, you can theoretically ride it for as long as you want!
More Difficult Than It Looks
Once you get pulled over the wave into the rapids (and you will), it’s important to keep ahold of your board and relax. Attempting to paddle against the current is a losing battle that will just make you exhausted.
As the rapids dissipate you swim over to the shore, hiking back to the starting point to try it all over again.
It took me at least 6 attempts to get the hang of it, and I have some surfing experience. Learning to surf a river isn’t easy — be patient!
Now you’d think that Montreal river water would be ice cold — but it actually wasn’t that bad. The water temperature can vary between the 60’s and 70’s (fahrenheit). A wetsuit is recommended if you’ll be there for a while.
Next time you’re in Montreal, rent a board or take a lesson and check it out! River surfing is a pretty unique adventure. ★
Watch Video: River Surfing Montreal
(Click to watch River Surfing – Montreal, Canada on YouTube)
Location: Montreal, Canada [Map]
Company: KSF Surfing
Cost: $20 USD (3 hour rental)
Useful Notes: If you want to learn how to surf a river wave, KSF offers classes. It’s not the same as ocean surfing. If you already know how to surf, you can also rent a board from them and try on your own.