CAN'T SURF HERE
Freshwater surfers seek to change 'No Surfing' laws on Lake Michigan
By: James Pribram
Photos: All photos: Mike Killion/ Great Lakes Surfer Magazine
Surfing has taken me to a lot of places in the world, but I never in my life, thought it'd take me to Chicago and onto the Great Lakes. I'm here filming for Fuel TV and my documentary, talking with local surfing activists and environmental groups about various concerns. (Yes, in case you were wondering, there is surf in Chicago - enough to have a magazine and activists, anyways.)
Our discussions have touched on things most surfers can related to, stuff like water quality, and surf spots, but perhaps one of the most compelling topics I've ever experienced as a surfer just came up: in some parts of Chicago, surfing is illegal.
Ironically, in a place that gets less surf than the Gulf Coast of Florida, surfing is against the law on some of Chicago's beaches. And there are plenty of surfers there who would love to see that law changed.
Local surfer/musician Jack Flynn was arrested for surfing some three- to four-foot windswell not so long ago. He was locked up overnight in his wetsuit, shivering with cellmates who'd just robbed a bank with AK-47s.
After hearing this, local surfers David Vanderveen, Jack Flynn and Ryan Gerard and I decided to do something about it: we paddled out smack dab in front of downtown Chicago and the legendary 'Miracle Mile' (*Readers Note: It is the 'Magnificent Mile' - Bob) and risked being arrested. No one really knew for sure what might happen if we were caught on our boards surfing or going for a stand up paddle, but either way we were going for it, where everyone could see us.
After an hour and half in the water stand-up paddling, we decided it was time to go in. Ironically, within minutes, the Chicago police boat came flying into action with another five cops swooping into the park on their bikes - all looking for us. Fortunately, we'd already made it in.
And while our little paddle-out was just a small step, longtime local Flynn has a pro-surfing petition with over a thousand signatures on it, letters have been sent, and the local community is pushing the issue to go before the city council.