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Montreal and its surf culture

by Sandrine Pelletier March 29, 2016
Montreal and its surf culture

Despite the weather, Montreal is an unexpected gem for surfing enthusiasts

It’s 7 a.m. and the sun is rising. Surfers are emerging from the water, soaked from head to toe, while flower buds decorate the grass on the riverside. A slim, dark figure is kneeling down next to her tall, immaculate board—a balance that comes as close to perfection as the coconut fragrance escaping the sex wax on this bright May morning. This isn’t the tale of a California endless summer dream, it’s a reality that is much closer to home than you think.

Graphic by Thom Bell.

Graphic by Thom Bell.

What could a world-class surfer like Jamie O’Brien ever be doing in an indoor surf competition on the south shore of Montreal? Habitat 67’s influence is your answer.

Habitat 67 is probably the most popular wave in Montreal and is located only four kilometres from downtown. The spot is called Habitat 67 as it is located just next to a housing community with that very name. At this time of year, most of us are probably terrified at the thought of paddling out in 15 C waters, but Montreal’s most disciplined surfers are rejoicing. Blocks of ice will finally cease to run down the currents, leaving more space and safe spots for surfers to show off their maneuvers in the St. Lawrence River.

The term ‘inland surfer,’ mostly used to describe a river surfer or a wakeboarder, is fairly self-explanatory. Quebecers are lucky as a short car ride can bring them to some fantastic waves  along the East Coast, while a short flight will hook you up with some of the best surfing in North America, in places such as North Carolina. However, surfing is an expensive hobby for those who don’t live by the sea.

This is where the St. Lawrence comes in: it acts as a fresh balm, fulfilling every insatiable ocean craving until the last drop of adrenaline has run through the urban surfer’s cold, cold veins.

An increasing number of surfers from around the world are adopting Habitat 67 as their main home break—or a surfing spot the surfer has become comfortable with. Montreal quietly became a new niche and inspiring market for surfing-inspired entrepreneurs, leading successful companies to build a collective empire through the wild and tropic world that represents the surf culture.

Companies and travel agencies such as Ouisurf, Barefoot Surf Travel, Salty Souls Experience, Surf Expedition, June Swimwear and KSF, are all taking advantage of Montreal’s surfing culture. These companies are all offering a beach life rhythm and that special stress-free environment, eagerly sought after by Quebec’s youth market. This can be seen through the new September Café on Notre-Dame Street West, which is inspired by surfing culture.

Although one should forget about the glowing sun kissed skin tan à la professional surfer, the surfing in Montreal is pushing boundaries and breaking down stereotypes: it’s cold, it’s scary and it’s a raw experience.

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