Swim Report – September 19, 2015 – Late Summer Swells

Marton, Tony, and I made it out to L1 yesterday morning at 6:30am. Given the storms from the night before and the 15mph to 20mph winds gusts, I wasn’t expecting the lake conditions to be ideal. But they were far better than we had expected!

The lake temperature came in at 61.8F – significantly higher than the air. And while we had some pretty strong sustained winds, the swells were not as intense as last week. So I opted for just my swim jammers and thermo cap and was fine with that setup throughout the swim.

It was a bit brisk upon entry, but we acclimated quickly once we were out of the wind. We swam half the distance to Oak Street Beach before turning back – about 1/2 mile total – and we definitely got a vigorous workout in the 3 to 5 foot swells.

The sun finally peeked out from behind the wall of clouds just as we were getting ready to leave. It would have been nice to have had this during our swim, but we take whatever Ma Nature throws at us.

That’s what makes us Lake Monsters.

A newly painted L1 – thanks to Diver Dave!



A cold climb down



Marton in-swim


Swim finish!



Pre-swim video

Swim Report – September 12, 2015 – Big Waves

Despite the wind, rain, and rigorous swells, we managed to get in a 1/2 mile to the beach – current assisted of course!

Daryl, Obed, and I met out at L1 6:15am and stashed all of our gear at the Chess Pavilion. My shoes and socks were already soaked through thanks to a rogue swell that caught me napping while I was taking the lake temperature. But it did give me an unplanned opportunity to get a feel for the water temperature – and it was surprisingly pretty warm!

The official temperature (in-swim) came in at just over 66F. That was at least 10F higher than the air temperature, so it was actually much more pleasant in the lake. And while the swells were a bit vigorous, it was fairly easy to swim to Oak Street Beach as long as one didn’t get too close to the side wall. Plus we had all the the wave force pushing us south – so we weren’t really expending much energy during the swim.

The real challenge, as expected, was the last 100 meters. We cut in towards the center of the beach in order to avoid “Hell’s Corner,” and that turned out to be a wise choice!

Daryl and I stayed at the beach a bit and did some body surfing on some of the larger waves. After that, I decided to tackle the surf from the other direction and swim north against the current for a while. But I got out after 1/8 mile since it was much more taxing than going south!

We decided to call it a day at that point, and we walked back to L1 – just as the sun was starting to peak out from behind the clouds!

L1 at sunrise


In-swim pics






At Oak Street Beach


The sun finally comes out!



Today’s video clips:

Swim Report – September 5, 2015 – Pre-Storm Swim

We gambled and won this morning. The forecast called for a 40% chance of thunderstorms, and we managed to finish up our swim right before they moved in! But our streak of luck really started the moment we arrived at L1.

I wasn’t sure what to expect as far as lake temperature given that it had still been stubbornly clinging to 55F up in Evanston. However, Dave had been out at L1 the day before, and he was getting consistent readings in the 67F – 68F range.

And sure enough, I came up with a 71F reading!

Other than a slight chop in the water, the swimming conditions were ideal. The only wildcard factor was something that didn’t rear its ugly head until much later – namely the lake allergens.

Even before I got to L1, I had been fighting off what I thought was a late summer cold. But the symptoms were eerily familiar to the ragweed allergies that had plagued me last year at this time. And given that they actually intensified a few hours after I had gotten out of the water, I strongly suspect that ragweed season is now in full bloom (literally).

Nonetheless, it’s a very small price to pay for the opportunity to swim in Lake Michigan this time of year. The conditions are perfect, and the views are amazing as always.

So where were you?

L1 at 6:00am


Sunrise in swim


The view from Oak Street Beach



Back at L1



Post-swim sunrise


Erika, Lake Monster 382 and Joy, Lake Monster 383


Becca, Lake Monster 384


Ashley, Lake Monster 385


Kristan, Lake Monster 386


Himanshu, Lake Monster 387


The storms move in!


Video compilation

Swim Report – August 22, 2015 – Deluge

The forecast called for heavy rain – but not thunderstorms – during the early morning hours of today. So absent any lightning, the swim was still a go as of last night. Fortunately for us, the weatherman was actually spot on this time!

It took a bit longer to get down to L1 given the inclement weather, but luckily there were plenty of open parking spots on Clark Street. I trudged through the downpour on my way to the swim site and was pretty much soaked through by the time I got there. I should have read the label more closely when I bought my rain slicker – “water resistant” just isn’t the same as “water proof!”

Not surprisingly, there were very few people out at the lakefront given the rather dismal weather conditions. But despite the rain, the lake looked fairly calm, and there was no sign of any thunderstorm activity. So given that I was already soaking wet, not swimming was simply not an option!

Much to my delight, I didn’t have to swim by myself. Phil arrived along with new Lake Monster Bill, hailing all the way from the Bay Area. We hung out underneath the Chess Pavilion and got all of our gear on before heading out to L1.

I had measured the surface temperature shortly beforehand, and it came in at 62.2F. When I got in the lake, I was very pleased to see that it had indeed warmed up from last week. There were no heart-stopping thermoclines lurking below the surface, so it looks like we are back on track to more “normal” lake temperatures!

I did the out-and-back to Oak Street Beach where they were setting up for the AVP volleyball tournament. We got some curious stares from the workers who were setting up the facilities. The event managers had fenced off the entire area from outsiders – but they weren’t expecting any pedestrians to arrive via the beach!

The swim back to L1 was a tad bit more difficult as the lake became choppier the last 1/4 mile. But just like last week, the water was amazingly clear and quite a joy to swim in!

The swim site at 6:00am


Dredging ship


Hanging out at beneath the Chess Pavilion


Testing the water


Sudden downpour in-swim!


Bill, Lake Monster 381


This morning’s video compilation (taken from my brand new camera!)

Swim Report – August 22, 2015 – Cold Plunge

I got out to L1 a bit early on Saturday morning as I was very eager to find out what the water temperature was at our swim site. It had been stubbornly hovering in the 54F – 55F range up in Evanston, but I still held out hope that perhaps L1 might have escaped the drastic temperature inversion.

Fat chance, as it turned out!

The first reading (surface) came in at 56.4F. However, by the time I completed the swim, I got an average reading of 55.5F. Bottom line, this was going to be a cold weekend for lake swimming…

Despite my post on Thursday alerting everyone about the sudden temperature drop, we still had an incredible turnout at 5:45am. Granted, not everyone got in the water – which I completely understand. But it was very gratifying to me that people were still willing to come out to L1 given the remote chance that the lake had warmed up since Thursday!

After a bit of hesitation, a number of intrepid swimmers suited up and began to enter the lake.

As expected, the initial immersion was quite bracing. I opted to go with just my jammers, swim cap, and neoprene cap this time, and I had taken a cold shower about an hour earlier that helped take the edge off of the cold water. But Lake Michigan still had a pretty sharp bite!

Fortunately, the lake was almost perfectly flat, and it was a clear day with no wind. So when the sun finally peeked out on the eastern horizon, the intense sunshine was a welcome neutralizer to the cold lake.

Because the lake was so calm at that time of the morning, it was a very easy swim to the beach and back once you got over the initial cold shock. Plus, the scenery – both above and below the surface of the water – was simply amazing.

Given the clear skies, we expected a memorable sunrise – and we sure got one! But the real show was the clarity of the lake. The inversion from earlier in the week brought in the cleanest, clearest water I have seen all year. So once you got over the initial discomfort and got into a steady swim rhythm, you got to experience a stunning aquamarine landscape that was like being in the middle of a dream. Truly fantastic stuff!

When I finally got back to L1, the sun was out in force, and this really helped lessen my afterdrop. I was still shivering a bit when it was time to start the swim clinic, but I wouldn’t have traded this morning’s experience for the world.

Pre-dawn colors


Swarm of Lake Monsters


Cold plunge



Looking back


Sunrise shots in-swim




The Oak Street Beach crew



Steve, Lake Monster 378


Genevieve, Lake Monster 379


Tim, Lake Monster 380


In the aquarium!


The scene at 6:00am

Swim Report – August 8, 2015 – High Summer

An intrepid group of around ten swimmers showed up at L1 and got in a swim in the 72.1F lake. I was a bit concerned what Ma Nature would present to us given the gusty wind and choppy lake conditions of the night before.

But Lake Michigan was calm and clear at 5:30am!

We didn’t get much of a sunrise until the tail end of the swim due to a stubborn cloud bank on the eastern horizon. But enough of it peeked through at Oak Street Beach to give us a nice backdrop for the return leg. So our swim back to L1 was quite pleasant – even with a rather chilly thermocline lurking 2-3 feet below the surface.

L1 at 5:30am



Water level view going south



At Oak Street Beach




In-swim skyline shot


David, Lake Monster 375


Jim, Lake Monster 376


Emily, Lake Monster 377


The Twins are back!


(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


At the 1/2 mile mark


Dawn of a perfect morning



Marton beneath the surface



Final shots before heading back



Exploring a lone boulder on the lake bottom


Back at Lighthouse Beach!


Swim Report – August 1, 2015 – Dragonfly Edition

Our first swim of August 2015 was unquestionably one of the best ones we’ve had all year. And if you slept in this morning, you sure missed out!

To begin with, the conditions out at L1 were ideal at 5:30am. The 72F lake was calm and clear with eastern horizon already giving us some brilliant pre-sunrise colors. And as more swimmers showed up at our coveted swim spot, the view to the east became even more dazzling.

As we waited for the sun to make its appearance, we were entertained by swarms of dragonflies that hovered over our heads and darted among us doing their best to decimate the lakefront gnat population. Despite this lively show, we soon lost interest in the dragonflies once the sun peeked out above the water line.

I won’t go into detail about how magnificent it was – I’ll just instead defer to the pictures below which you can see for yourself. Suffice to say that it was quite an amazing experience – particularly at water level while in swim.

Given the calm lake conditions, I was able to complete the out and back to Oak Street Beach quite quickly and easily. And when I returned to L1, I had the honor of ushering in several new Lake Monsters.

Congrats to everyone who came out today!

Lake Monsters gathering




Another perfect sunrise



The view in swim


Heading back


Home again!


Molly, Lake Monster 369


John, Lake Monster 370


Maria, Lake Monster 371


Tom, Lake Monster 372


Lisa, Lake Monster 373


Erik, Lake Monster 374


More dragonflies



Sunrise video

Swim Report – July 18, 2015 – Ahead of the Storms

We had some pretty chaotic thunderstorms move into the region yesterday afternoon. But once again, we lucked out at 5:30am!

The air temperature was already a sultry 78F when I arrived at L1. I promptly took a measurement of the lake temperature, and this came in a just under 70F (surface). Given that the sun had yet to even make its appearance, it was obviously going to be a scorcher out at the old swim site!

As the clocked ticked closer to 5:30am, several open water pilgrims began to stream in to L1 – including a number of brand new Lake Monsters. And they couldn’t have picked a more ideal morning!

Just like last week, we had to postpone our swim start for several minutes to enjoy the spectacular sunrise. I made sure to snap as many shots as possible – some of which are featured below. But these can in no way provide you all with the same experience that we had seeing it live.

The swim to and from Oak Street Beach was a waking dream in the calm 68.8F lake (official temp). I got back just as most of the swimmers were finishing up, so I had an opportunity to chat some more with the others and officially recognize all the new Lake Monsters.

After the others left, I stayed out at L1 to conduct my swim clinic. By the time that ended at 9:00am, a gray wall of clouds had already started to move in from the west.

So it looks like we got to experience the best part of the day!









Swim start



At the beach




Back at L1!


Phillip, Lake Monster 360


Emile, Lake Monster 361


Left to right, Seth, Jerrilynn, and Lisa, Lake Monsters 362, 363, and 364


Bill, Lake Monster 365


Paul, Lake Monster 366


Left to right, Donna and Jeff, Lake Monsters 367 and 368


Swim Report – July 11, 2015 – Hello Summer!

After a much extended Spring, we finally got our first Summer swim out at L1. And it was magnificent!

Mother Nature did not disappoint us this morning. In stark contrast to the last several weeks, this time we had clear skies and a calm lake along with a water temp reading that came in at a balmy 66F. All combined, it was nothing short of perfect swim conditions.

A lively group of swimmers showed up at 5:25am – including some veteran Lake Monsters that we haven’t seen since last year. So we had a mini reunion out by L1 that was only interrupted by the big bright red sunrise that just demanded our attention!

Given the ideal lake conditions, it was both an easy and pleasant out-and-back swim to Oak Street Beach. As typical, a group of us congregated there and socialized for a while before heading back. But there wasn’t this urgent need to get swimming again to stave off the cold.

By the time I got back to L1, the sun had long since shed its scarlet hue and was out in full force – pretty much guaranteeing that there would be no afterdrop this time. And that was a very welcome change!

Welcome to Summer 2015!

L1 at Daybreak







In swim shots




At the beach


Jim, Lake Monster 359


One last look back


This morning’s video compilation