Stand Up Paddle Boarding in Chicago


This article was originally published at
by Ken Ilio
for Chicago Photography Examiner

ken_ilio_stand_up_paddle_boarding_in_chicago-03.jpg A stand-up paddle boarder starting out from the beach on Lake Michigan last week.

There seems to be an upsurge in interest in paddle boarding (stand up paddleboarding) on Lake Michigan in the past two or three years. I’ve seen them spring, summer and … yes, even in winter. Just last week, just before going to work, I glanced out of my window and saw a paddle boarder on the lake. Naturally, I grabbed my camera and took a shot.

Two years ago, Joe Bidwid, one of the pioneers of high performance windsurfing and kiteboarding in the Great Lakes crossed Lake Michigan on a paddle board – from St. Joe, Michigan to Chicago! That must be a record.


ken_ilio_stand_up_paddle_boarding_in_chicago-02.jpg One crazy pela paddle boarding on Lake Michigan, seen during the summer last year.


ken_ilio_stand_up_paddle_boarding_in_chicago-04.jpg How about this guy?! In the middle of winter last year!

I hope they don’t get arrested like these surfers that I saw back in 2003. As soon as they got out of the water, police swarmed and arrested them. Apparently, it is illegal to surf on Lake Michigan in Chicago … although many surfing sites say that surfing is approved on Montrose beach (or maybe authorities just look the other way).


ken_ilio_stand_up_paddle_boarding_in_chicago-01.jpg  Surfers on Lake Michigan, ca 2003.

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6 Responses to “Stand Up Paddle Boarding in Chicago”

  1. shapeshifter 1shapeshifter

    wierd… from time to time i would google “chicago stand up paddle” to see if there was anyone else around. that’s how i happened to noticed this the article at the site on the same day it got posted up here. strange thing is every time i paddle in lake michigan i couldn’t help but wonder what it must look like from above (from one of the high rises or the occasional helicopter). then to find three pictures of myself in different seasons from both aspects (on a building and from a helo or plane). bizarre indeed!

  2. Bob 2Bob

    Too bad you didn’t get over for the downwind board showcase Evan. You would have met Alan (a.k.a. shapeshifter)…the guy in the Chicago pics. Great guy…we’ve been corresponding for a year and a half or so (started when I was talking about building paddles on the zone) and I finally got to meet him. He was out sourcing materials for a skin cream he’s come up with for folks that get in and on the water a lot. Organic, high SPF, non-greasy, antibacterial….awesome stuff.

  3. Cory Sargent 3Cory Sargent

    I’ve paddled a few of chicago’s beaches and loved em. Here’s a short video of me paddling @ montrose.


  4. Aaron Campbell 4Aaron Campbell

    Interesting article. We’ve been seeing a lot of increased paddling in our neck of the woods, Holland, Mi.
    We’ve been out about every other weekend this winter.
    Excited for spring, but the site above has some links/pics of our winter activites. I’ll keep it recent.
    Thanks, Keep paddling.

  5. Niki 5Niki

    I will be in Chicago for the month of July 2010. I was wondering if there are any “SUP” events taking place?

  6. Pat Hoffman 6Pat Hoffman

    Been supping out of Burnham Harbor for 5 years. Moved to New buffalo Harbor this summer, awesome!

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