Unexpected Swell: Surfing Canada's Great Lakes

Unexpected Swell: Surfing Canada's Great Lakes

Uniting travel, nature and surf, Ryan Osman Photography captures all the elements of alluring and captivating images. From a childhood passion to a creative outlet, Seafox caught up with Ryan to discover more about surfing Canada's Great Lakes and finding swell in the most unexpected places. 

How did you get into photography and in particular, capturing surfers?

I grew up on the island of Mauritius and I was always interested by the ocean and travelling. When I was young, my parents used to take us on family trips abroad. I never really liked to be included in photos, I guess I was a bit shy. That’s when I started taking photos of our family trips.

When I started studying engineering in Canada, it was fairly intense; I spent a lot of hours studying and needed a more creative outlet. While on trips during the holiday breaks, I started getting more into photography.

Following a surfing trip to Halifax, where I injured my knee, I slowly started focusing my attention on photographing surfers while recovering. My friends and I started surfing the Great Lakes more regularly and I guess that it became the focus of my work.  

You're based in Canada and capture surfing on the Great Lakes. Can you tell us a bit about the surfing culture and style local to you?

The Great Lakes has many small pockets of surf communities around them. I have personally surfed Lake Huron, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. I really enjoy the Great Lakes surf community; there are surfers of various levels, age groups and they are all so stoked and welcoming.

Great Lakes surfers rely primarily on the winds and some of the best waves occur during the storms

I’m always amazed by the number of surfers who ventured out there during such bad weather, especially during the winter storms. Canadian winter storms are harsh and cold, but that doesn’t stop Great Lakes surfers from going surfing.

Have you surfed/ captured surfers on film elsewhere? Did you notice any differences in style/culture/vibe compared to Great Lake surfing? 

I’ve surfed and taken photos in Ecuador, the Canadian East coast and in Costa Rica. I don’t think I’m the right person to describe the surf culture in these places though, I haven’t been there long enough. I feel like it takes more time to understand the culture of a surf community and I’d be afraid to misrepresent them.

What image is your favourite/ are you most proud of? Can you tell us a bit about how you captured it?

I’d say that this is my favourite photo. I took it the first day I surfed the Great Lakes.


I never knew you could surf the Great Lakes. Living in the city of Guelph (in Southwestern Ontario, Canada) made me feel landlocked. My friend, Mark, told me that you could surf in Ontario and he took me surfing with him. It was a sunny but windy day; the waves were messy and not the biggest, but I was so pumped to see some waves!

If you could describe your work in three words, what would they be?

Connected To Nature

Where is your favourite place to shoot? Why?

Lake Huron is my favourite place to shoot. It was the first Great Lake I surfed on and it’s a special place to me. The waves can get pretty big and the lake makes your work hard for your waves or photos.

And finally, what does the sea (and the lakes) mean to you personally?

The ocean is special to me: I grew up on an island and the first body of water I saw was the ocean. It was calm, blue and peaceful; it allowed me to connect with nature. The Great Lakes are also special because they remind me of the sea I grew up with, but more often I tend to go during the storms to surf and take photos. The lakes can be fickle and tough, but it can be a very rewarding experience.

You can follow Ryan's travels and see more of his stunning photos on Instagram, Facebook and at Rosmanphoto.com

Nomadic writer and designer