New 2015 Chicago Swim Event – The 1st Annual OWC/Sugob Crib Crawl!

Chicago area open water swimmers will have one more Lake Michigan swim option this year thanks to a recently inked partnership between OWC and San Francisco-based Sugob Events!

Dubbed the “OWC/Sugob Crib Crawl,” this will be a 2.72 mile point-to-point swim event from the Harrison-Dever water crib to Oak Street Beach. The unique feature of this event will be a ferry boat swim start – similar to the Alcatraz swims conducted in San Francisco Bay.

Swimmers will board the ferry at Navy Pier which will take them out to a launch area just outside of the landmark water crib. Sugob, one of the preeminent organizers of swims in the Bay Area, will provide timing chips for the swimmers which will activate once they exit the boat. From that point, both Sugob and OWC will provide kayak support for all swimmers while they make their way to the swim landing site just south of L1.

Here is the tentative swim route (pending approval by the City of Chicago and the Chicago Park District):

OWC_Sugob Crib Crawl Swim Route_01April2015

This event is currently scheduled for Saturday July 11, 2015 – so be sure to mark your calendars!

Also, because of the unique challenges inherent with this specific swim route, we are limiting this event to the first 100 qualified swimmers.

In order to be eligible to participate in the OWC/Sugob Crib Crawl, you must be an experienced open water swimmer and you must have a Lake Monster Number – no exceptions.

I will provide you all with more details as we get closer to the event. But for now, please mark the date and be sure to let all your friends know about this inaugural open water swim event – right in our very own back yard!


UPDATE – April 2, 2015

1) Please note the original date of this post
2) Please also note the semantics of “Sugob” when the lettering is reversed
3) Gotcha!

Swim Report – March 21, 2015 – Happy Spring!

I snagged a parking spot over by the Latin School and started working my way out to L1 when I suddenly realized that the sun was rising much earlier than I had expected. So I broke into a trot and got out to the lakefront just in time to snap a few shots while it was just cresting the horizon.

And boy was it ever magnificent!

The lake itself was flawless – mirror flat with a nice turquoise color – and the surface temperature came in at an astonishing 42F. And while we were the first people out there for a swim, we once again got trumped by waterfowl.

I’d written in the past about the L1 cormorant, but this visitor was quite different. For one thing, this bird had a white neck and some rather unique markings. While I wasn’t able to get a picture, I’m fairly certain that it was a Western Grebe. And while these birds are not usually found this far east, they have been seen up at Montrose Beach in the past.

Getting back to the swim, Marton and I surveyed the scene and opted to go once again without our wetsuits. I still wore my thermo rash guard – and I was damn glad that I did – but I was quite pleasantly surprised at how much less cold the water seemed compacted with last week.

I did an out-and-back to the 1/4 mile point while Marton stayed in a bit longer. The air temperature was a crisp 40F which nipped at our fingers as we changed out of our wet clothes. But with almost no wind and plenty of sunshine, we were able to have a relatively quick recovery with only a minor afterdrop. Which, to me, is the real sign of Spring’s arrival!





Scenes at the halfway point





Swim Report – March 14, 2015 – Pi Day Plunge

Just a quick report since the weather is gorgeous outside, and I do not want to spend too much time indoors!

Marton and I met out at L1 just before sunrise (7:15am), and the lakefront was quite different from last week! The swim area was completely ice free, and all the ladders were fully accessible thanks to the warm spell we’ve had all this week.

I decided to get an official lake temperature reading, and it came in at a fiery 39F! So given this – along with a 48F air temperature – I decided to forego the wetsuit and go in with my thermo rash guard and neoprene jammers.

The first few minutes, while challenging, were not as uncomfortable as I was expecting. My legs hurt a bit initially since they were not used to being fully exposed to these temperatures. But this soon passed, and Marton and I were able to get in a 1/2 mile swim in the wonderfully clear, blue lake.

Post swim was a bit of a challenge as well since I had a rather lengthy afterdrop. But I think it’s safe to say that we’ve definitely turned the corner on the winter!

Last Saturday sunrise of the winter


Almost completely ice free


Clear swimming conditions



Another swimmer beat us to the lake!


Swim Report – March 7, 2015 – Hints of Spring

Nick made a surprise appearance at L1 and accompanied Marton, Fred, and I out for what turned out to be yet another amazing winter swim…

Ma Nature was very generous and gave us a 38F air temperature along with a mirror flat lake. But she insisted we earn our keep with the ladder, which was completely encased in ice. So we donned our safety glasses, grabbed the pickaxe, and got to work!

Once we had a clear entry/exit point, we suited up and got in the lake. I was only able to make it to the 1/4 mile mark before running into an impenetrable sheet of ice. But by then my fingertips were reminding me of the need for warmth. So I snapped a few shots while in the drink and headed back.

We had our own little private “cabana” area right by the ladder thanks to a large ice wall that had formed on the concrete. But with no wind whatsoever and plenty of sunshine, we really didn’t need any other protection from the cold!

All in all, another fantastic experience out at the lake that just underscored to all of us that Spring is just around the corner!

Iced over L1


Are we swimming or ice climbing?


Clearing the ladder




Our swim lane


Ice Monsters in action


At the halfway point


In-swim video

Pre-swim video

Swim Report – February 28, 2015 – Ice Capades Edition

Dave scouted out the lakefront yesterday, and the only area with open water was the Montrose south wall. But even with that potential, there was still a 15+ foot ice shelf along the shore that would require some heavy duty labor to gain access to the swimmable lake.

Fortunately for us, we had our trusty pickaxe…

I met up with Mike and Marton this morning out at the south wall, and the air temp was all of 7F. Luckily for us, there was no wind, and the sun was out in force. So after scoping out various potential entry points, we settled on our regular ladder and started to clear the swim area.

We managed to clear the ladder and create a hole just off the wall. But the remaining shelf was too thick to break through. So we attached a safety line to the ladder and tossed it out to the open area before suiting up and getting in.

We climbed out onto the shelf and crawled about 10 about feet out before the ice became thin enough to break through. From that point, it was an easy chore clearing the thinner ice layers in order to get access to the open water.

I hung out near the edge of the ice shelf and snapped some shots of Mike and Marton as they navigated the obstacle course. I caught up with them about 1/4 west where the lake had completely frozen over. After a bit of effort, we climbed on top of this much more extensive ice shelf and did some exploring.

After our fingers started to get really cold in the frigid air, we jumped back in the lake to “warm up” in the 32.5F water. And believe it or not, you could actually feel the temperature increase once we got back in the water!

We made it back to our entry point and used the safety line to facilitate getting back onto the ice shelf. All in all, another really amazing adventure out at the lakefront!

Last sunrise of February


Clearing the lake access point



At the halfway point


Mike navigating the ice shelf


A unique vantage point of the city


Mike and Marton at the swim finish


Video at the halfway point

Swim Report – February 14, 2015 – Big Chill on Valentine’s Day

Given the frigid 17F air temperature, we decided to head out to the Montrose south wall in lieu of L1. And as it turned out, that was the best thing we could have done!

I met up with Mike and Marton out at MSW just before sunrise (7:00am). We scoped out the swim area, and there was a sheet of ice extending from the wall out about 6 feet. However, there was an enticing a patch of open water just beyond.

As we deliberated how we were going to punch through the ice, a northeast wind miraculously arrived and started to blow it all south. Talk about great timing!

We suited up as quickly as possible and climbed down into the lake. We swam east, slightly into the wind, and made it about 1/5 mile before heading back. The return half of the swim was a bit more challenging due to all the ice forming on our gloves, booties, and hoods.

But that’s what happens when you swim in a 32F lake that is literally in the process of freezing!

The most brutal part of the swim was actually getting out of the water. By the time we exited, we had snow added into the 20mph sustained wind – all of which created a veritable blizzard in the parking lot. In fact, the below-zero wind chill froze all the water on our neoprene making it next to impossible to get our gloves off.

I furtively clawed at my right glove for about five minutes before I was finally able to free my right hand. It was only then that I could get my keys out of my jacket and get access to my car. I didn’t even bother trying to get out of my frozen wetsuit – I just got in, slammed the door shut, and cranked up the heat!

With a little logistical difficulty, I changed out of my frozen neoprene in the front seat and got into some dry clothes while the car warmed up. I didn’t have much of an afterdrop this time (thank goodness), so it was a pretty uneventful ride home.

Once again, we beat the storm!

Clear swim lane at MSW


Marton prepping for a swim


Mike and Marton


Encased in ice!


At the halfway point

(Belated) Swim Report – January 31, 2015 – Calm before the storm

We lucked out again last Saturday with the weather and lake conditions. There were some slight swells at North Avenue Beach, but L1 was completely calm. Once we cleared off L1, we were able to get in a swim up to the 1/8 mile mark until we ran into some ice sheets.

Another perfect morning for a swim – and we got in the lake before the huge blizzard moved into town!

Sunrise at North Avenue Beach



Last sunrise of January



Swim Report – January 24, 2015 – Return to L1!

As I sit here on Sunday morning looking out at the wet snow and biting wind, it’s quite apparent that we sure lucked out again on Saturday!

When I arrived at L1, Marton was already out there chipping away at the ice-encased ladder. But for that obstacle, the entire swim area was about as good as it gets – flat, clear, calm, and sunny. Fortunately, I had remembered to bring out my pickaxe, so we were able to clear off the ladder fairly quickly.

By the time we actually got in the lake, the sun had emerged from behind the cloud bank. So we had a fantastic accompaniment to our swim the entire time we were in the water.

I swam pretty close to the wall and made it out to the 1/4 mile point before turning back. The first couple of minutes were a bit of a challenge thanks to the low level “ice cream headache” I had to endure with my face in the water. But after that, I was quite comfortable throughout the swim.

I made it back to L1 just as Fred and Marton were finishing up changing out of their gear. Again, having the sunshine out (along with very little wind) really made a difference once we got out of the 34F water.

Overall, it was an ideal morning out at the lakefront. And if you didn’t get in a swim, I sure hope you at least got outside!

L1 iced over

[photo credit: Marton]

Clearing the way!

[photo credit: Marton]









At the halfway point


One last look back


Sunrise Video

L1’s Best Friends

One of the many benefits of getting out to the lakefront at sunrise is that you get to meet all the people taking their dogs on their morning walks. Here are a few of the “regulars” I’ve had the pleasure of seeing over the years.

Funny thing, I always remember the dogs’ names – but I still can’t remember some of their owners’ names!




june 1 08 minnie


oct 10_2


july 16 2008 2


sept 19_4




july 22 2008 2



Bogart encore with the author


Swim Report – January 17, 2015 – Early Spring at North Avenue Beach

I parked temporarily in the bus drop off lane at NAB since I didn’t want to enter the lot and get stuck with a $10 tab in the event the swim was a bust (yes, I am notoriously frugal). Fortunately, while L1 was an inaccessible nightmare, we lucked out big time at NAB…

I arrived at L1 about 15 minutes early, and our preferred swim spot was still largely iced over. The south/southwest wind was beginning to clear things up a bit, but the swim area itself was still choked with closely packed ice floes. And even if the area was clear, all the ladders were so iced over that access was darn near impossible.

In other words, even if you did manage to get in (or fall in) the lake by L1, you weren’t getting out unless you swam all the way to Oak Street Beach!

Disappointed but not deterred, I went over to NAB and climbed out past the “ice dunes” to scope out the lakefront there. Much to my delight, the area was free and clear – and even sheltered from the wind! By that time, Marton and Fred had arrived, and we found a decent lake access point at the south end of the beach.

I suited up and tested out the ice layer leading out to the open water. Luckily, it was quite thick and easily supported my weight (we had a safety rope handy just in case I “punched through”). When I eased into the water, it was waist deep – so perfect entry conditions.

The sun was already out in force when we got in the lake, and that made everything much easier. All in all, we did about 1/4 mile distance. However, this was occasionally interrupted up by some spontaneous exploration of some of the larger ice floes.

The great thing about mid-January is that the days are getting noticeably longer and the skies are not as overcast as they are in December and November. Also, despite the colder air and water temperatures, you’re more acclimated to the outside climate – so it’s actually much easier to swim this time of year.

So while Spring doesn’t officially arrive for two more months, we’re already “over the hump” with regards to lake acclimation. Because of this phenomenon, we consider mid to late January to be “Lake Monster Spring.”

The pool is open – get on out to the beach!

L1 swim area still iced over


NAB area free and clear!


Suiting up


Water level shots





Fred on ice


Today’s video compilation