Toronto surfers protest waterfront project that could ruin ‘magical’ Lake Ontario surf spot

Toronto surfers protest waterfront project that could ruin ‘magical’ Lake Ontario surf spot
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One of the best surf spots in Toronto — yes, — will disappear if a Scarborough shoreline revitalization project moves forward as planned, say concerned surfers.

“There are very, very few spots that create nice waves, that are surfable waves,” said surfer Nadia Baer, one of a few dozen who entered the water at a “paddleout” event near Bluffer’s Park Beach Wednesday.

“This happens to be a spot that creates a perfect wave.”

Unlike on oceans where surfers can rely on tides to generate waves, lake surfers depend on wind and shore layouts to create surfable conditions. A stretch of land between the Bluffer’s Park Beach and the nearby marina happens to be the perfect spot to create powerful, oceanlike waves when the wind blows from the southwest.

However, surfers are worried a revitalization effort by Toronto and Region Conservation (TCRA) targeting about 11 kilometres of Scarborough’s shoreline will put an end to that.

The Scarborough Waterfront Project , which aims to make the area safer and more accessible to the public while also preventing the erosion of the Scarborough Bluffs and preserving wildlife habitats, is split into three portions; the part raising the concern of the surfers is the west segment, which covers Bluffer’s Park Beach and Cudia Park. The TRCA’s proposed plan for the segment includes expanding the length of the existing beach about 60 metres into Lake Ontario between Bluffer’s Park and Meadowcliffe and building a stone revetment — a large, roughly peanut-shaped collection of rocks — to help protect the headland.

Surfers say the spot, near Bluffer’s Park Beach, is one of few on Lake Ontario that produce rideable, oceanlike waves.  (Carlos Osorio)  

For the surfers, the problem is that the revetment is set to go right where the wave breaks, near the end of an existing spit of land just west of the beach and next to the marina.

“It’s putting a node literally right in the middle of the best surf spot in the lake,” Baer said, adding that the surfing community in Toronto has “blown up” in the past three years.

“They’re going to build right in the middle of that and stop that wave.”

Another surfer, Jeff Green, grew up in the area and has surfed the spot for the past 30 years. The location isn’t just important to him, he said, but for the steadily-growing surfing community in Toronto and the GTA.

“Honestly, my best memories over the 30 years of surfing are at the point ... The wave wraps in such a way that it’s unbelievable. It’s a pure ocean wave,” he said.

“This spot is a spot that every single person in the community surfs or is intrigued by ... It’s magical.”

Green said he’s also concerned that the revetment would create “severe riptides and undercurrents” by the shore that would endanger swimmers; after studying wave and wind patterns for decades to figure out the best time to hit the water, he said he worries the revetment would become a “catcher’s glove” for dangerous water conditions.

Besides organizing the paddleout and an online petition, Baer said surfers have also reached out to the TRCA and city councillors in an effort to save the spot and have a say in the next stage of project planning.

“We’re really hoping there’s a way that they’ll be able to include us ... We’re still hopeful that’s going to happen,” Baer said.
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