We’ve been kiteboarding up and down the West Michigan Coastline for over 10 years and these are our favorite spots based on wind direction. What are your fav places to ride? Let us know in the comments.
There is hometown bias at play in this selection, but
Manistee is the place to be on a NNE. Manistee is often overlooked by tourists that will either stop where the freeway ends in Ludington or will continue on to the start of the Sleeping Bear Dunes. Generally, you don’t have to worry about crowds or parking except for during the Forest Festival(4th of July). NNE is sideshore at 1st street beach. The riding area is protected by an elbow shaped pier that surrounds the harbor and generates some nice waves on a strong NNE, especially in the Fall. For an extra memorable sesh wrap up your day with a short downwinder to Magoon Creek. There are also many places to eat and grab a drink on and around River St.
2. North Wind: Silver Beach, St Joseph, MI
The long fetch with side-on conditions makes Silver Beach one of the prime big wave locations for those heavy fall north winds.
Honorable mentions: 1st St beach Manistee, South Haven. Manistee is slightly more side-on on a North but it’s still a great steady wind direction and good for waves. Heading north along the lakeshore Soha is the last good spot for a true N wind until you get to Manistee for side-on wind conditions.
3. North-Northwest Wind: Grand Haven, MI
Grand Haven City Beach or Grand Haven State Park is the best kiteboarding location for a North-Northwest wind direction. NNW is side shore here. The pier structure is very long and provides a lot of protected riding area. Waves tend to shape up nicely in out in front of the Grand Haven State Park pavilion. Grand Haven is a popular beach for tourists, so you need to be careful in the summertime to stay out of the swim areas. The typical launch location is just south of the city beach parking lot. There are many places to eat and drink in the area as well.
Honorable mentions: Pere Marquette Beach Muskegon, South Haven(SOHA). Very side shore on a NNW at Muskegon but definitely good riding and a NNW is also solid at SOHA.
4. Northwest Wind: Pere Marquette Beach, Muskegon, MI
Pere Marquette beach is where I learned to kite and I’ll never forget the first time I put up a full-sized kite(I think it was a 9M Cabrinha Convert) and when my then-girlfriend, now wife, got dragged out to Lake Michigan and had to pull all her safety lines to detach from the kite. Northwest is the perfect side shore wind direction for kiteboarding in Muskegon. Enjoy the long beach and big kiting area. Summer thermal winds are a lot of fun. Stop at the Deck or Dockers for some good lakeshore eats and entertainment on the beach after your sesh.
Honorable mentions: Van’s beach, Petobego Pond… Vans: NW may be the only wind directions that is rideable at this location due to the surrounding islands and peninsula’s. It has crystal clear blue waters and a short pier with an elbow to form some nice waves. One of the most scenic locations in Michigan. Hit the cheese shop after in Leland for a killer sandwich.
Petobego Pond, Williamsburg, MI Is it real? How do you get there? is it as magical as I’ve heard? My first trip to Petobego was last Fall on a 40+ knot wind day. We had just finished up watching the disappointing 1st half of the Michigan Michigan State football game when the snow stopped, and the wind picked up. Matt and I were both overpowered and it was a little choppy due to the high winds, but we still had a great time riding in the bay. This spot would be epic on a sunny summer day.
5. West-Northwest Wind: Platte Outlet, Honor, MI
The scenic Sleeping Bear Dunes lakeshore should be enough to get anyone excited about kiting here but if that wasn’t enough you can also fly up into the Platte River Outlet itself. The Platte River Outlet is the closest feeling that I’ve had to what it’s like to ride in the outer banks. A WNW wind is the perfect direction tack up the Platte River and launch over the small peninsula that separates it from Lake Michigan. Unfortunately, rising water levels have made riding at the Platte have made it more difficult to ride here but it’s definitely worth checking out if you are in the area.
Honorable mentions: Empire Beach, Pere Marquette Beach. When you go to the beach in Empire it’s easy to see why the Sleeping Bear Dunes shoreline was rated the most beautiful in America. Again it’s slightly tricky to find good WNW wind but this is another awesome spot when it comes around(other side-shore wind directions tend to be gusty). High water levels have shrunk the beach considerably, so it may be a bit crowded in the summer. Pere Marquette is still solid side-on conditions on a WNW.
6. West Wind: Tiscornia Beach, St. Joseph. Popular location for a west wind as it is the only location south of Manistee that is still in Michigan for a west wind that is not extremely onshore conditions. Manistee and St Joe are very similar actually in the angle of the north and south beaches on the lakeshore.
Honorable mentions: 5th Avenue Beach Manistee, Grand Haven City Beach, Pentwater. West is great at 5th Ave for the same reasons it’s good at Tiscornia. Grand Haven as a huge wide beach which in the right conditions can be pretty fun on a West. Pentwater is a nice little spot for a SW to WSW. Always has a huge sandbar that makes it stay shallow for a ways out.
West winds bring on shore conditions for most of the lakeshore, but, Manistee’s shoreline cuts in pretty deep on the north side at 5th Ave. beach which leaves you with side-on wind. Wind conditions need to be pretty strong to drum up waves here and even then the waves aren’t going to be huge. While most locations along Lake Michigan are a washout on a west wind, 5th avenue is smooth as buttah. Clean waves will develop if the wind is strong enough. Technically this is wind direction number seven. Did it “surprise” you per the clickbait title of this post?
Honorable mentions: Tiscornia and Pentwater. Side to side on conditions make for a great ride at Tiscornia and side-on to on shore at Pentwater is fun too
8. Southwest Wind:Medberry AKA “The Honey Hole”, Montague, MI
Medberry has an uncanny resemblance to Frankort from the scenery to the riding conditions found here. A Jetty protects the riding area and a strong SSW to SW wind produces some excellent waves albeit smaller than what you would find in FF due to the shorter fetch. The landscape is very nice. There isn’t much development directly on the beach and there are scenic bluffs to the north. Speaking of fetch, you can find a brewery of the same name in Whitehall for refreshments after your sesh.
Honorable mentions: Holland State Park, Muskegon State Park, Onekama, 5th Ave Mansitee, SOHA North Beach, Pentwater. Lot’s of favorites for southwest winds.
9. South-Southwest Wind: Meinert Park, Montague, MI
Meinert in the Spring and early summer is easily one of my favorite riding spots. It’s located close enough to Little Sable point that you get a boost of 5-10 knots over the wind readings in Muskegon but without the gusty conditions that many times plague Little Sable Point on sunny days. Spring and summer is the best here in my opinion. The water is relatively flat this time of year which is good since there aren’t any piers or structures to break and smooth out the waves. Sometimes it feels like all you have to do is pull in your bar to ride a smooth elevator to the sky. The kite community here is also very friendly and great to ride with.
Honorable mentions: Again so many to choose from on a SSW but here are a few favorites… Onekama, Frankfort, Ludington, Holland, Grand Haven North, Muskegon State Park, Medberry Park, Point Betsie, Big Sable, Little Sable.
10. South Wind: Frankfort Beach, Frankfort MI
The surfing and kiteboarding Mecca of the north. A south wind is sideshore at Frankfort and produces the cleanest waves. The long fetch and protective pier generate some of the best and biggest waves along the Lake Michigan shoreline. There are also a lot of restaurants, festivals, and things to do in the area when the wind isn’t blowing.
Honorable mentions: Stearns Park Ludington, Muskegon Harbor, Muskegon State Park. Stearns is another spot often overlooked by kiters and surfers but is a great place to go on a strong South. South is sideshore and the wind will typically be a little lighter here than the readings at Big Sable Point. Good waves in the fall and nice and flat near the pier. From Labor Day to Memorial you have to set up north of the main beach and stay out of the swim area.
11. Easterly Wind Directions: Muskegon Lake, Muskegon, MI
In West Michigan there just aren’t a lot of good places to take advantage of an East wind. Our favorite spot is Muskegon Lake and the best time to go is Spring and Fall before and after the boat moors are put in the water. The wind can be surprisingly steady here on an East.
Honorable mention: Traverse Bay Area. The western shores of the bays are pretty steady and rideable on easterly winds.
There you have it, our favorite spots. Variety is the spice of life and that applies directly to kiteboarding locations as well. Stay safe, have fun, and get out there and try a new spot!
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