Days filled with sunshine . . . and surfing!

Ryan Taylor surfing in Arcadia, MI.

Shuffleboard, pickleball and softball are not the only sports that campers enjoy while at Camp. For Russ Miller and the Taylor family, surfing is a staple activity while on the shores of Lake Michigan.

An East Coast native, Ryan Taylor grew up surfing in the Atlantic. When he started attending Family Weeks in 2000 after marrying his wife Ashley, a long-time camper, he knew he wanted to find a way to bring surfing to Arcadia.

“We used to fly to Arcadia and I would scour Craigslist to find a board,” Taylor said. “Sometimes as we drove through towns in Michigan with surf shops we would rent one. We did all sorts of scheming to get a board at Camp.”

Now a family of six, surfing has become a family affair for the Taylors. Instead of flying to Camp from Delaware, the Taylors drive so they can strap as many boards as possible on top of the family minivan. 

“Now we just throw a couple of boards on top of the minivan and hope for some waves,” Taylor said. “It’s always a big battle how many boards we can fit.”

The Taylor family surfing culture is also rubbing off on the Camp family. This past summer, Taylor taught Charlie May how to surf. 

Charlie May is on his way to becoming a seasoned Lake Michigan surfer.

“All the kids will be out there,” Taylor said. “It’s a fun family thing for a nice day, probably our number one thing. We’re big beach people.”

For cottager Russ Miller, surfing and Camp have been intertwined his whole life.

Miller grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan. His grandfather built the family’s cottage in the 1930s and Camp has been in the Miller family since then. Now, he and his family split their time between Arcadia and Traverse City.

“We’re basically Northern Michigan people,” Miller said.

Miller began windsurfing on the lake about 45 years ago.

“I saw it on television one day and said, ‘I gotta get one of those,’” Miller said. “I’ve always been interested in sailing, body surfing and surfing. Windsurfing looked like a way to bring surfing to the Great Lakes because you would use the wind to help you.”

Miller windsurfing near Point Betsie.

Since then, Miller has experimented with a plethora of other waterboarding sports, including kiteboarding.

“I do that in front of Camp quite often,” Miller said. “Sometimes when they’re having Vespers, I feel bad because people are looking at me!”

Miller said he also enjoys standup paddleboard, or SUP, surfing in Frankfort.

“You can get some ocean-sized swells on the Great Lakes,” Miller said. “Probably the best place to go is Frankfort because you’re protected by the piers. You can get 10 to 15-foot swells coming in.”

Frankfort is one of Miller’s favorite spots to kiteboard.

Surfing on Lake Michigan is more unpredictable than surfing on the Atlantic, Taylor said.

“With the Atlantic, you could wake up and 75% of the time there are waves to surf,” Taylor said. “In Lake Michigan, you can way less frequently go out and actually surf a wave.”

Lake Michigan waves are controlled by the wind, so there are more frequently-occuring and smaller waves than the ocean. This makes it more difficult for surfers to actually catch a wave, Taylor said.

One of Taylor’s favorite surfing spots is at the South Bluff past the Lake Arcadia channel.

“We used to walk there,” Taylor said. “But that was in my younger days. That’s a long walk with a surfboard. Now it’s more laid back. We just look out from the porch and see where the waves are breaking, which is usually down by the public beach.”

The entire M-22 coastline from Manistee to Leland is a surfer’s paradise, Miller said.

“For the experienced watersport guy, it’s like a playground up here,” Miller said. “I couldn’t be happier to have that available to me.”

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