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Lake Michigan Surf Forecast
Our surfing forecast for Lake Michigan is updated every Monday and Thursday morning by resident meteorologist, Dr. Fresh (see his bio below). New to Great Lakes wave forecasting? Dive in deep with our resources below.
LAKE MICHIGAN SURF FORECAST
Updated by Dr. Fresh on Monday, October 21 2019
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 to Wednesday:
SUMMARY: Lake Michigan will be rolling solid the next few days. Depending on where you are, the waves will either be total junk, or clean and big! A strong area of low pressure will deepen as it approaches the Great Lakes Monday and Tuesday. Gale force SE winds will develop Monday with a switch to offshore for the Wisconsin lakeshore later in the day. Waves will likely clean up big time late Monday/Monday evening for Wisconsin. On Tuesday, SSW winds will blow and turn more W through the day. Again, Wisconsin will stand out with the cleanest surf. On Wednesday, W winds will gradually subside and turn more S through the day. W swell will continue for the Michigan side with waves cleaning up Wednesday afternoon/evening, especially for the southwest corner of the state.
MONDAY: SE wind 20 to 30 knots with 40 knot gale force gusts. Waves building 5 to 8 feet, especially for the western side of the lake. Winds switch to the SW and lighten 15 to 25 knots for the the Illinois and Wisconsin lakeshore during the evening. Winds remain out of the SE for the northern end of the lake.
TUESDAY: SSW wind 20 to 30 knots with 40 knot gale force gusts. Winds becoming more SW during the afternoon and then W for the evening. Waves 5 to 8 feet, especially for the east side of the lake.
WEDNESDAY: W wind 10 to 20 knots turning S during the afternoon and evening and lightening 5 to 15 knots. Waves 4 to 6 feet, mainly for the east side of the lake.
GREAT LAKES SURF FORECASTING
First thing's first: want to go really deep into Great Lakes wave forecasting? Scroll to the bottom of this page for the live webinar we did in October 2018.
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.