Meet Surf the Great’s CEO Antonio Lennert. He surfs. He SUPs. He’s chasing that next big wave. Want to know the best thing about it? He’s doing all of this right in his very own backyard - Lake Ontario. Antonio knows that Lake Ontario offers an idyllic lifestyle right here at our TO fingertips.
Sound intriguing? We thought so. We reached out to Antonio and had the pleasure of hearing his inspiring story firsthand.
This post marks the first of a series that we will write on Antonio. He is regarded as a water ambassador and community leader with lots of good vibes to share. Read on to find out more.
Making Waves in Toronto
We first met Antonio in Toronto at a beach cleanup a few summers ago. At this popular event, we learned that he had left his design work to pursue his dream: To surf and reconnect to the water. So, what did he do? He founded Surf the Greats, an adventure travel and lifestyle brand focused on delivering experiences that will reconnect people to nature. When asked why he founded this company, he came back with a heartfelt story.
Born in southern Brazil, Antonio’s love for the ocean began at a very young age. “We spent a lot of our social time by the ocean on the beach with our friends and family growing up, so I’ve always had a very strong connection to the ocean.”
After moving to Toronto seven years ago, Antonio found that his love for the water was not bound by its composition. He realized that freshwater lakes also have their charms. “When I moved to Toronto, I knew that Lake Ontario wasn’t saltwater, but whenever I walked down to the waterfront and stared into the horizon, for me, it looked like the ocean, it felt like the ocean, and it took me to a comfortable place.”
With this realization, Antonio began exploring Toronto by going to the beach like he used to in Brazil. He remembers his first spring in Toronto when he rode his bike to Cherry Beach, Leslie Street Spit, and Ashbridge’s Bay. “Sometimes I would go for a run there. Sometimes I would just go and exercise on the beach; all the things I did when I was growing up in Brazil, I was doing here.”
He continued his story by touching upon a conflict that he observed here in Toronto:
“I always thought that it was a little bit strange that not many people would go down to those places.”
When asked why this may be the case, he highlighted the need to appreciate the Great Lakes. He has noticed a disconnect between the lake and the people living by it. “We have the greatest amount of freshwater in the world and we take it for granted.”
As a surfer who has experienced Brazil’s polluted waters first hand, Antonio takes water quality seriously. Despite the risk, many people are still surfing and swimming in Brazil’s water for their love of an active lifestyle - including Olympic athletes. On the contrary, many Torontonians perceive Lake Ontario to be unsafe for swimming. In fact, the number one question people ask Waterkeeper is: Is Lake Ontario swimmable? Which is why in 2001, we created the Swim Guide to answer this question.
Antonio points out that Lake Ontario is swimmable most days, and SUP-able and surfable. “If it hasn’t rained for a few days, the water tends to be very clean and very suitable for swimming and other recreational purposes.”
Whenever he seeks to disconnect from the hustle of the city, he spends his time on the shoreline of Lake Ontario right downtown. “I go there because it brings me joy and I think it helps me deal with the stress of living in a big city.” Antonio’s Watermark goes into further detail about how Lake Ontario has influenced his life.
In order to address the disconnect between Torontonians and Lake Ontario, Antonio made it his mission to reconnect them. So, he founded Surf the Greats.
According to Antonio, Surf the Greats exists because he just wanted to bring people out and connect to the natural environment. He started by bringing friends to Ward’s Beach during the summer months. “In a way, I started implementing that like, tropical lifestyle, on to Lake Ontario.”
With almost 2000 followers and hundreds of active participants, Antonio has been successfully achieving his mission of reconnecting Torontonians to the lake. And the best part is - you don’t have to be an expert to join. The company attracts beginners and experts alike.
This lifestyle movement is happening - right now - in Toronto. We encourage you to join it. Check out Surf the Greats and more of Antonio’s work at http://surfthegreats.org/