Editor’s Note: Look for coverage of Great Lakes recreation and adventure in this new monthly feature. The author, Ian Solomon, founded Amplify Outside, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing access and representation by Black people in the outdoors, starting in the Great Lakes region. Find more about him HERE.
From the Detroit River to the shores of Tawas Bay, I chased the last bite of summer I could manage.
This was my first time taking I-75 North and veering east to Lake Huron. I typically don’t stop until after the road becomes a bridge – the Mackinac Bridge, of course – and whisks me into the Upper Peninsula.
But I wasn’t minding this adventure a little closer to home, my first official one with Great Lakes Now and for a segment in the monthly television program to boot. After a 2½- hour drive from Detroit’s concrete to East Tawas beaches, I made it to my destination: Motor City Kite & Surf.
I had to ask myself why I hadn’t explored Lake Huron more often. Tawas Bay is beautiful, there are great shops and restaurants, and the relatively calmer waters meet you right where the action is.
But, that’s also what keeps me from Lake Huron. Unlike its bigger dune-covered sister, Lake Michigan, Huron’s western shores are mostly flat and accessible, which allows for ample infrastructure close to the water. This is great if you’re shopping for a beach house, but not so much if you’re looking for rugged beach wilderness.
I usually run for the rugged – more about that in future columns – but today I met the 21st century outside with a new water sport making a name for itself: eFoiling.
I met Mark Kuban to receive some much-needed lessons and education for this new adventure. Mark is, without a doubt, a matured surfer bro. This archetype is typically reserved for those swimming the Pacific, but also finds itself at home in the Great Lakes Basin.
Mark found the joy of the water in the early 2000s and couldn’t tear himself away. He eventually left metro Detroit for Tawas Bay to start his business selling and teaching various watersports.
Tawas Bay is known for its ample winds providing sanctuary for kite surfers across the region, but eFoiling, despite using a similar board, has no use for wind power. Nope, this sport uses batteries.
I like to explain eFoiling as motorized surfing: Imagine a surfboard with a propeller under the surface that you control with a hand-held remote, simple enough, right?
As my lesson with Mark showed…not quite.
“I’m Standing Up”
We went through the basics and technique of the machine. My biggest concern was the temperature. The day we went, summer was on its last leg and the 60-degree, mid-September sun was starting to shift. Luckily the shallow bay had all season to warm, a pleasant surprise allowing me to focus on the real concern: staying on the board.
Honestly, I can be a bit over confident at times with activities like this. Mark explained the balancing tricks and narrated his years-long mastery of the craft while an internal dialogue convinced me of my ability to be a professional on the first try.
“Mark my words, I’m standing up today,” I told myself.
Spoiler Alert: I did not.
Let’s be clear — I wasn’t bad, but I was a few nickels short of professionalism.
I spent the first 20 minutes laying flat on the board just trying my best to stay above the water. Mark coached me from shallow water with the help of walkie-talkie helmets, and after a little trial and error I found my center and confidence— this was getting to be fun.
A crucial technique to eFoiling is keeping the pedal to the metal, or in this case your finger on the trigger. You have full control, but the only way to keep balance is by maintaining a brisk speed. Laying flat on my stomach zooming across the water’s surface, that internal dialogue returned, and I was determined to stand on my two feet.
Sit, Stand, Splash
After a fall or two, I made my way to my knees fairly quickly only adding more fuel to my fire. It was time to master it. With my finger gripping the trigger and an overflowing unearned confidence, I took a step to stand.
I don’t remember much— I was flying with the birds then just as quickly swimming with the fish.
A complete wipeout.
Then another one. I’m sure you can guess how the rest of the lesson went.
There was another piece of information from Mark that my internal dialogue drowned out: the physical toll these sports can take on your body is not negligible. I left our lesson feeling excited and accomplished. So it wasn’t until the morning after I felt the full-body workout of the bay— smacking into the water countless times at accelerated speeds probably didn’t help much either.
Even though I didn’t conquer eFoiling the way I hoped, I was motivated to get back on the board until I succeeded. That motivation took a hit when Mike mentioned the $13,000 price tag on the watercraft, adding it could be “much more expensive.”
Kayaking is great, but this was the most fun I’ve had on water; Lake Huron made its case as a deserved destination, and I loved the physical challenge. An eFoil will stay on the Christmas list for now, but I’ll surely pay Mark another visit up in Tawas Bay for more lessons.
Mark my words: I’m standing up.
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Featured image: Great Lakes Now contributor Ian Solomon prepares to try eFoiling on Lake Huron. (Photo Credit: GLN)