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Lake Michigan Surf Forecast
LAKE MICHIGAN SURF FORECAST
Updated by Dr. Fresh on Sunday, September 23rd 2018
5-day Lake Michigan wave forecast model
SURF QUALITY KEY (for daily summary below, not map above)
BLUE – Flat or Poor Surf
PURPLE – Mediocre Surf
ORANGE – Fun Surf
GREEN - Epic Surf
RED - Victory at Sea
Lake Michigan Surf Forecast for Monday - Wednesday:
Summary: Not much happening on Lake Michigan Monday and Tuesday. A cold front will swing across the lake late Tuesday which means NW winds pick up in its wake Tuesday night into early Wednesday. Waist to chest high waves are likely much of Wednesday as NW flow fades through the day. The biggest conditions will be across the southern end of the lake, especially Indiana and lower Michigan. Nearshore water temps are in the 60s over much of the lake with the warmest (around 70) over the southwest side and the coldest (upper 50s) across central lower Michigan.
MONDAY: SE wind 10 to 15 knots with higher gusts early over the entire lake. Waves 2 to 4 feet early and fading through the day. Biggest waves on the Wisconsin side.
TUESDAY: SW wind 5 to 15 knots switching to N at the north end during the afternoon and for the south end late in the evening. Only minimal surf expected, mainly for the north end.
WEDNESDAY: NW wind 10 to 20 knots with 25 knot gusts, mainly early. NW wind turns more W and fades through the day. 3 to 5 foot waves expected early Wednesday for the south end. Swell fades through the day but expect surf to last through part of the afternoon.
GREAT LAKES SURF FORECASTING
First things first: want to go really deep into Great Lakes wave forecasting? Scroll to the bottom of this page for the nearly two-hour live webinar we did in October 2017.
While predicting waves on most ocean coasts has become a science of its own, with countless surf reports, surf-specific web cams, and detailed forecasts, surf forecasting in the Great Lakes is in its relative infancy. To put it bluntly; you have to work at it. Fortunately, there are now numerous resources available, mostly via the World Wide Web. Read on for a look into surf forecasting on the Great Lakes.
Finding waves is easy. Finding good waves is the challenge.
What makes waves? It's simple: wind. We need wind to make waves, but we also need a good stretch of water for the wind to blow over to produce those waves. That brings us to something called fetch - the length of water the wind is blowing over. Look at any beach on a map and find the longest amount of fetch connected to the beach, and that will tell you what wind direction you need to make waves at that beach. And, keep in mind that a stated wind direction means the wind is coming from that direction (a north wind blows from the North to the South).
Some beaches get waves from many directions, but the above example would theoretically build the biggest waves. The size of the waves depends on factors such as wind speed, wind direction, wind duration, the amount of fetch, and the bottom contours over which the waves are breaking; but the fetch is probably the most important factor. An example? If you were in New Buffalo, on southern Lake Michigan, a west wind (blowing from Chicago to New Buffalo) only has about 50 miles of fetch, but a north wind (blowing from the Upper Peninsula) has about 300 miles of fetch - which wind direction do you think produces bigger waves in New Buffalo?
Assembled here are some of the most functional and easy-to-use online tools for finding waves in the Great Lakes. Included are wind maps, wave models, and other relevant links that can be found in any serious lake surfer's online arsenal. Read the description for each, then dive in and start to get to know them. Your reward? Good, uncrowded waves that even an ocean surfer would be stoked to find.
- iWindsurf - Simple, trusted wind forecasting source for all of the Great Lakes
- Great Lakes Coastal Forecasting System (GLCFS) - A color coded, 5-day wind map for all of the Great Lakes.
- Sailflow - Another functional wind forecasting tool for all of the Great Lakes.
- Great Lakes Coastal Forecasting System (GLCFS) - A color coded, 5-day wave map for all of the Great Lakes.
- Western Great Lakes Buoys - Click on a buoy or weather station for current wind and wave data.
- Eastern Great Lakes Buoys - Click on a buoy or weather station for current wind and wave data.
- Great Lakes Observing System - Click on a buoy or weather station for current wind and wave data.
- Coastwatch (Michigan : Superior : Huron : Erie : Ontario) - Click your lake for current water temps.
- Great Lakes Ice Coverage - Click the link for the date you're looking for.
LIVE LOCAL WEBCAMS
- New Buffalo - A live video feed from New Buffalo, Michigan
- St. Joseph Lighthouse - A live video feed from 1st St. in St. Joseph, Michigan.
- Silver Beach, St. Joseph - A live video feed from Silver Beach in St. Joseph, Michigan.
WHO IS DR. FRESH?
Our forecasting expert, Dr. Fresh, is a Midwest transplant from the East Coast. Like most of us, he makes the best of his situation and tries to think he can actually surf a lake. When not attempting this, Dr. Fresh can be found looking at weather maps trying to nail down our next swell. He has a degree in atmospheric science and is a meteorologist by profession (yep, on TV), so we'll just assume he knows what he's doing.