Joseph Stephen Hernan – May 31, 2017

The Weissmuller Pavilion: A New Chicago Park District Project for 2016

The L1 open water site is about to get swim lockers – and a whole lot more!

One of the lesser known projects of Mayor Emanuel’s lakefront trail redevelopment plan involves a complete overhaul and redesign of the Chess Pavilion. Originally built in 1957, the iconic limestone pavilion has been a popular summer gathering place for generations of masters and novices alike. But over fifty years of water’s-edge exposure to winter conditions has taken a substantial toll on the beloved lakefront landmark.

In mid-2015, the Chicago Park District commissioned a civil engineering firm to conduct a failure analysis on the Chess Pavilion. The results unfortunately uncovered serious structural damage to the Chess Pavilion – so much so that the Park District will be officially condemning the structure later this month while preparing the site for demolition.

Chess Pavilion (current structure to be demolished)

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While this is certainly a heartbreaking development to all of us who have become very fond of the Chess Pavilion over the years, there is a silver lining to this misfortune. Namely, the Park District is going to replace it with a public use facility designed primarily for Chicago’s large and growing outdoor swimming community.

In May 2016, the City of Chicago will break ground on the former site of the Chess Pavilion for a brand new facility – the Weissmuller Pavilion.

Weissmuller Pavilion (exterior design)

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Named after Johnny Weissmuller, Chicago’s most famous competitive swimmer, the Weissmuller Pavilion will be specifically designed to cater to the unique needs of swimmers and beach goers at both North Avenue Beach and Oak Street Beach.

The Weissmuller Pavilion will still retain the open air community feel of the Chess Pavilion, and the Park District will preserve the embedded chessboards on the concrete embankments for those who still wish to get in a match out at the lakefront.

But the new facility will have a much heavier focus on swimming, and it will include unique features such as swim changing rooms, lockers, and hot showers – all within a short walk from the L1 swim site!

Weissmuller Pavilion (locker room layout)

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While the completion timetable for the Weissmuller Pavilion is still being finalized, I have received word from the Park District that it should be in place and fully operational by mid to late August of 2016.

And it is my understanding that Mayor Emanuel – who is an active swimmer himself – has taken a personal interest in expediting the completion of the Weissmuller Pavilion.

Perhaps he will be equally as proactive in coming out to L1 to get his Lake Monster number?

(Bonus) Swim Report – July 27, 2015 – Marton’s Send-off

As most of you know, I was out of town the weekend of the 25th. So I missed out on the informal gathering out at L1 where Marton had his last swim (for a while at least) with a bunch of other Lake Monsters. However, Marton and I had previously discussed getting together up here in Evanston for a send-off swim before he headed back across the pond.

Needless to say, neither of us needed any convincing to get back in the lake again!

We got up super early that day, and I met Marton out by the Central Street El station. He was biking it, so he followed me a mile east out to Lighthouse Beach. We stashed all our stuff in my car save for the essentials (goggles, swim cap, camera, etc.), and we headed out to the shore.

It was already 78F at 5:00am, and the first hits of daybreak were forming out on the eastern horizon. Since we were planning on doing a long, leisurely swim, we got in the lake right away and started swimming due east – straight out into the lake.

The lake temperature – which couldn’t have been any more perfect – came in at a refreshing 71.6F. And the lake was as clear as I have seen it since we had the spring turnover in late April.

Marton swam breast stroke the entire time, and I did mostly free stroke with some occasional stretches of breast stroke. This gave us plenty of opportunities to chat while we were in the water waiting for the sunrise. We estimate that we were roughly 1/2 mile out in the lake when the sun finally crested over the water.

Words cannot describe the sensation of being out in the lake at the dawn of a new summer day. The lighting and colors of daybreak were nothing short of breathtaking.

We stayed out there for quite some time, chatting some more and taking lots of photos, before we reluctantly decided to head back. As with the swim out, we took our sweet time getting back, finally landing ashore at Lighthouse Beach – just in time to interrupt a beachfront yoga session!

As with all these swim reports, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

And as for Marton, we will miss you my friend! Chicago winters will not be the same without you in the lake!

Lighthouse Beach at 5:00am

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At the 1/2 mile mark

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Dawn of a perfect morning

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Marton beneath the surface

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Final shots before heading back

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Exploring a lone boulder on the lake bottom

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Back at Lighthouse Beach!

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How to Promote Your Swim/Triathlon Event on the OWC Facebook Page!

Are you an event organizer in charge of promoting a for-profit or charity swim? Or are you a race director for a triathlon looking to tap into Chicago’s multi-sports market? Well you’ve come to the best possible place!

If you don’t have much of a budget, one great way to promote your event is through the OWC Facebook Fan Page.

Here you will get exclusive exposure to a pre-qualified group of over 2,000 open water swimmers who are always highly motivated to sign up for the next big swim event!

So how do you do this? It’s really easy.

Just send me a note with the details of your event along with your contact information. Or call me directly at 312-927-0299 if that’s easier.

I’d be happy to work directly with you to arrange a marketing event or promotion that best fits your needs and your budget.

As a quick background note, I do not allow any type of unsolicited product or event promotion on the OWC Facebook page. I created that policy because I didn’t want the page to get hijacked by spammers – which is exactly what happened when I first started the page. Also, as OWC has grown over the past 7 years, the costs to me in both money and time have grown substantially.

Bottom line, I am actively (and unashamedly) looking for ways to monetize OWC so I can continue to grow the Chicago open water swimming community – and by extension your customer base. So if you decide to support me in my efforts, it will be a win-win for both of us.

So what are you waiting for? Get in touch with me ASAP – before one of your competitors does!

Thanks!

Steve

P.S. If you have a bigger budget and want to explore other possible promotional opportunities with OWC, be sure to check out the details at the “Our Market” page!

OWC Swim Waiver – Why You Need to Sign This Now

There’s a brand new feature on the OWC website. If you look at the bottom right side, there’s a bright green tab that says “OWC Swim Waiver.” Be sure to click on that and fill it out – and that includes all you Lake Monsters who have already swum with us in the past!

Otherwise you simply cannot swim with us at any of our upcoming meetups.

Allow me to explain why…

When we started out this whole OWC experiment seven years ago, there were just a handful of people who would come out to swim at L1, and most of our meetups were informal events or spontaneous “see you some time tomorrow” arrangements. But as we’ve grown as a group – and as overall interest in open water swimming has accelerated – we have a much different scenario these days.

It is now quite common to have 15+ people show up at a meetup, and many of these swimmers are new to the group and new to open water swimming altogether. And while this is an exciting and welcome trend, it also presents a challenge for OWC – and for me specifically – when it comes to ensuring that everyone has a safe and positive experience.

As a quick illustration, here are some actual situations I have had to personally manage and deal over the past seven years while out at L1 during a meetup:

– Distressed swimmers (4 rescues to date!)
– Large groups of pool swimmers with no open water experience showing up on days with dangerous lake conditions
– People seeking a “polar bear plunge” experience without any prior cold water training, gear, or preparation
– Other situations that, while not dangerous, may have given someone a negative experience with open water swimming

From a risk management perspective, this is no longer something that I can allow without some sort of formal acknowledgement and agreement on your part that 1) you recognize that there are indeed risks to participating in this type of activity, and 2) you accept complete responsibility for them.

So please complete the OWC swim waiver now so I don’t have to tell you on site that you can’t swim with the group (and by extension, that you can’t get your super-awesome, world famous Lake Monster Number)!

And one final note – I am still in the trial period with Smart Waiver for the remainder of April. That means that all of you can complete your waiver now (one time only) and not have to wait weeks or months at some point in the future.

Translation – when I have to officially sign up for a monthly waiver plan, I will only be able to accept so many waivers per month. Once that quota is reached, you will have to wait until the next month to come out to one of our meetups.

So just click on the link, complete the form, and know that you’ll be able to come out and swim with us whenever you want to going forward.

Thanks!

Steve

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!

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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!

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!

Scout

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Minnie

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Cooper

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Louis

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Bogart

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Kit

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Linus

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Eddie

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Bogart encore with the author

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New Ice Monster!

Dave took his sister, Anne, out to our Montrose swim site yesterday were she officially earned her much coveted Ice Monster designation. Way to keep it in the family, Dave!

In-swim selfie

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Anne, Ice Monster 16 (congrats!)

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2014 Sunrise Edition

As we close out the year, here is a photo tribute to all of the amazing sunrises we experienced while out at the lake. Happy 2015!

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OWC Mindshare 4: Effective Open Water Sighting Techniques

There’s a lot more to sighting than just picking a target and looking for it during the swim.  But unfortunately, that’s usually all the advice you’ll ever get from most coaches whenever the subject comes up.   The reality, though, is that poor and inefficient sighting techniques can deplete your energy during the swim and adversely impact your overall event performance.

In this session, we are going to discuss “reality-based” sighting.  Specifically, we will review how to efficiently and effectively stay on course and keep your bearings within all types of open water conditions – including situations where you literally cannot see the swim finish area.  We will discuss pre-swim sighting strategies as well as how to manage the limitations of your visual field while in the open water.  We will also detail and demonstrate a powerful and practical “sight stroke” technique that OWC developed based on the principal of “economy of movement.”  Below are the details – don’t miss out!

OWC Mindshare 4: Effective Open Water Sighting Techniques

– Date: Sunday July 13, 2014

– Time: 7:00am

– Location: Vicinity of Ladder 1

– What to bring: Just yourself as this is a land-based seminar (i.e. no swimming involved!).

– Cost: Feel free to donate to OWC at any time after the clinic if you feel that it was in any way valuable to you!

[For more details on the OWC Mindshare series – CLICK HERE]