Recently, I was talking with someone about growing up so close to Lake Michigan's shoreline that I took the beach for granted. "Michigan is actually a really great place to live," I said. (My eavesdropping friend leaned over and added: "We do have some Great Lakes.")
When we live somewhere, I think it's easy to get stuck in a routine and miss the opportunities and experiences readily available just outside our front door. Swimming, boating and fishing is good fun and all, but Michigan is a sports complex for adventure. If you're looking to add some thrill, try these extreme water sports.
Michigan is one of the best places to explore shipwrecks, and there are a number of ways in which to embark on this exploration.
West Michigan offers a number of locations for SCUBA certification, and divers could experience history firsthand by visiting ships that once cruised the lakeshore and are now resting on the lake floor.
If you're not interested in getting your feet (or hair) wet scuba diving, look no further than the lake surface. Charter tours with glass bottoms offer opportunities to view shipwrecks all while remaining dry.
For a glossary of Lake Michigan shipwrecks, check out www.michiganpreserves.org.
It doesn't have to be windy or wavy in order to get a wild ride on the water.
Wakeboarding, snowboarding, windsurfing and paragliding synthesize into one extreme sport—kiteboarding—where it's possible to jump 30 feet in the air off flat water.
In kiteboarding, a large controllable power kite is propelled across the water on a board that's similar to a wakeboard or small surfboard.
For this adventure, all you need is the gear.
And probably some lessons, if it's your first time.
There are plenty of locations in West Michigan, such as MACkite, that offer both.
Don't let the name confuse you—sea kayaking is for Michigan's fresh water lakes just as much as it is for salty seas.
You could explore caves, channels and coves on Lake Michigan's open water with a sea kayak. As open water is subject to more wind and waves, the workout is more vigorous.
You could also explore one of Michigan's rivers and enjoy the serenity of a peaceful paddle or the rush of riding rapids.
Either way, kayaking offers a great way to experience the scenery and wildlife along Michigan's water at a pace that's right for you, and West Michigan boasts a number of places to rent kayaking equipment.
Have you ever enjoyed the wind and waves of Lake Michigan from hundreds of feet above the water's surface?
Take in your surroundings as a giant parachute launches you into the air. Parasailing allows for unique opportunities to get soaring views of Michigan's unique destinations as a boat tows you along in a tour unlike any other.
And don't be fooled—you may be high above the water, but you'll still get wet.
Great Lakes Surfing
And it has been since the 1960s, when the west coast surf craze began leaking into Middle America. Small surfing communities sprang up across the Great Lakes, so it shouldn't be a surprise that Michigan remains at the forefront of the small surfing sport, which is now more popular than ever.
Waves are typically smaller in the summer, so it's the perfect time to learn and be ready for the prime surfing season during the fall, winter and early spring.
Learn more about surfing Lake Michigan's waves at www.thirdcoastsurfshop.com.
Information adapted from the West Michigan Tourist Association.