Shannon Thomas has experienced his fair share of double takes and puzzled looks while driving the Surf Dayton van around town.
“People definitely ask, ‘Where can I surf in Dayton?.’” he said. “Some are surprised by the answer.”
There isn’t a sandy, white beach or ocean waves for miles, but river surfing is alive and well in the Miami Valley thanks to RiverScape MetroPark, Eastwood MetroPark and Springfield’s Snyder Whitewater Park.
“We are the Adventure Capital of the Midwest, after all,” Thomas said with a smile.
It’s that adventurous spirit that prompted Thomas and fellow surfing enthusiast Jake Brown to establish Surf Dayton in 2018 as a resource for established surfers and a starting point for rookies. They offer private lessons and group clinics for river surfing as well as river stand-up paddleboarding and flatwater SUP lessons. Surf Dayton also has a retail surf shop and offers rental and repair services.
“I love surfing more than anything and I love sharing it with others,” Thomas said. “Something personal happens with every surfer – it’s more than a hobby, it’s a passion.”
River surfing is exactly what it sounds like – utilizing a surfboard to surf on a river wave.
“Basically, you’re surfing a standing wave and the water is rushing underneath you,” Thomas said.
Whitewater can be naturally occurring or, in a growing number of locations, constructed river features designed with paddlesports in mind.
“There are more and more river waves being built,” Thomas said. “Building whitewater parks creates recreational opportunities and has an economic return.”
River recreation is nothing new, but the creation of whitewater parks has picked up steam across the country in recent years. West Carrollton is the latest Dayton community considering the addition of a whitewater park.
“I travel all over the country river surfing,” Thomas said. “But you don’t have to go very far to try it.”
“Surfing is almost not a sport, it’s a lifestyle,” Thomas said. “And the local surf community is very welcoming.”
Additionally, the surf community has grown exponentially in recent years. When Thomas started river surfing locally, there were only a few other guys who surfed regularly. Now, there could be 30 surfers at a wave on a single day. And, through the end of last season, Thomas estimates Surf Dayton had given lessons to 500 people since the company’s inception.
Think surfing is for you? Thomas suggests a few prerequisites.
“You should be a good, competent swimmer,” he said. “And come in with a positive attitude and enjoy the experience.”
For more information, visit www.surfdayton.com or Surf Dayton on Facebook.