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Chicago, America’s Next Surf City?

Chicago SurfingThe Windy City is one of America’s sports meccas: home to the Bears and the Bulls, the Sox and the Cubs, and but can it become Surf City, U.S.A.? Technically no,  since that name belongs to Huntington Beach, California but Chicago now allows surfers access to specific beaches. Whaa?

Up until recently, wave riders risked massive fines for attempting a session as if 20 degree air temperatures and erratic surf potential weren’t enough deterrents to would be surfers. The move will effectively legalize surfing in the heart of the Midwest and make Chicago an unlikely beachfront in the war to extend surfing’s influence across the country.

So after 20+ years of surfing bans,  Chicagoans can ride the waves at five beaches “ath their own risk.” . 41st Beach will be open to surf all year, Montrose, Osterman, 57th St & Rainbow will be open Labor Day – Memorial Day (fall/winter is when the waves are really kicking.)

The city that helped transform Obama from Hawaiian bodysurfer to Presidential golden child (not sure he ever took to the shores of Lake Michigan) will now let folks trudge through the city with  rafts, boogie boards and, of course, surfboards to grab a few cold ones. Chicago has a surf shop and a Surfrider chapter and sometimes even some surf, so why not?

According to Time Magazine, this is part of a push to extend surfing’s influence inland. Global companies like Billabong and Quicksilver and Volcom know that expansion means going beyond nature’s coastal boundaries. After all, that’s where the cash potential lies. It’s an untapped resource up to this point.

In reality, surfing is happening in bodies of water everywhere. Stand-up paddle boarding, wake surfing, kite surfing, surfing in rivers and giant lakes and Arctic seas, and even some action happening in truly viable wave pools. This might be a sea change moment for ocean surfers: the great shift inland for surf culture. It’s an interesting thought.

Filmmaker Vince Deur, co-chair of the Surfrider Foundation’s chapter in Chicago,said:

“We know that in the world of great surfing, as far as quality goes, we’re at the bottom. We’re in it for the fun. We understand and respect the city’s small-step approach to opening these beaches. And we consider this a victory.”

As a southern Californian girl who thinks the Pacific is a bit icy  – I guess fun is all in the eyes of the beholder. Don’t think I’ll be booking a surf vacation to Chicago anytime soon.

If you’re interested what a Great Lakes surf experience is like, check out this video:

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