By: TOC Staff
Excerpt by: —Gretchen Kalwinski and Rod O’Connor
...2. It’s our own public water park
The lake offers plenty of ways to hold your own personal X Games. Howza ’bout kayaking? You can join Chicago Kayak which offers free rentals to members and departs from Leone and Wilson Beaches up north. You can get a yearlong club membership and a free introductory lesson—which is required to join the club—for a mere $130. If windsurfing is more your speed, Windward Sports offers private lessons for $50 an hour from June–September. But for our money, the most exciting water sport is kitesurfing, in which harness-wearing participants combine surfing and kite-flying to navigate a board propelled by a huge kite. Chicago Kitesurfing launches from Montrose Beach, and offers expert instructors, classes and equipment. All that’s required is water and wind (no waves needed). It’s a pricey hobby— a three-hour lesson (with equipment provided) costs $150–$250, and if you decide to buy your own gear, you’ll pay $1,000 to $3,000—but as any adrenaline junkie knows, you have to pay to play.
Plain, old-fashioned surfing is an option, too. Every day, Lake Michigan longboarders watch cold fronts closer than Tom Skilling, and when the winds hit 25 miles an hour, it’s time to slip on the wet suit in search of the perfect wave—calendar be damned. “I surf all year round, until the lake freezes over,” says Jim Hoop, 43, Chicago’s unofficial surfing ambassador. “I’ve surfed excellent waves on New Year’s Day.” If you wanna join the fun, hit Third Coast Surf Shop in New Buffalo, Michigan (269-932-4575, www.thirdcoastsurfshop.com), for lessons. And since surfing isn’t allowed in Chicago proper, head to Michigan City or Whiting in northwest Indiana, good spots when there’s a west or north wind.