Best Of Chicago

Best Offbeat Lake Michigan Adventures

July 16, 2011 6:00 AM

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(credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

(credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

We live beside one of the most magnificent lakes in the world, but how many of us have truly explored our great lake? Sure, we’ve all enjoyed swimming the lake, but how many of us can say that we’ve paddleboarded, surfed, or scuba dived Lake Michigan? Here are three extreme challenges for all the lake lovers out there:
95798937 Best Offbeat Lake Michigan Adventures

(credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The Zen Art of Paddleboarding

Great Lakes Board Company
North Avenue Beach
Just South of Castaways
www.greatlakesboardcompany.com

It’s the latest craze via Hawaii: paddleboarding is a cross between canoeing and surfing. You stand on the surfboard and paddle yourself around as if you were canoeing. Once you get the gist of how to maintain your balance, you’ll love this relatively new sport. It offers a Zen experience of sorts – paddleboarding requires meditative balance. I’m not the most Zen person ever nor am I the most coordinated person, but I attempted paddleboarding and I loved it: it’s relaxing yet a great form of exercise and perhaps best of all, it offers a unique view of the lake. The Great Lakes Board Company located on North Avenue Beach, in a small hut just south of Castaways, rents paddleboards by the hour. Sign up for a one-hour lesson, which includes a 30-minute session with an experienced instructor (in-water) and a 30 minute board rental ($50 per person). Board and paddle rentals run $25 an hour, with a 10 hour rental package at $200.

Surfing the Third Coast

Third Coast Surf Shop
212 State Street
St. Joseph, Michigan 49085
www.thirdcoastsurfshop.com

They don’t call us the Third Coast for nothing – yes, you can actually surf Lake Michigan. While the waves will never reach Pacific heights, they’re enough to have you hanging ten. The appropriately named Third Coast Surf Shop, located in St. Joseph, Michigan, about an hour’s drive from downtown Chicago, offers both private and group Surfing 101 lessons. You’ll learn the fundamentals of surfing and water safety, appropriate warm-up exercises, equipment handling and safety, water and rip current awareness, and the basics of laying, paddling, sitting, and “popping up” on the surfboard. I took surf lessons alongside my 10-year-old son, and believe it or not, this old mom learned to surf in about an hour (it took my son only about ten minutes). If you haven’t tried surfing yet – go for it! Remind yourself that in Lake Michigan, you don’t even have to worry about sharks!

21635131 Best Offbeat Lake Michigan Adventures

(credit: JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images)

Scuba Diving the Murky Depths

N’Pursuit Adventure Charters Chicago
6289 Oregon St.
Hobart, IN 46342-6420
www.npursuitcharters.com

I have to admit: I’m a certified scuba diver and I’ve even dived amidst a school of hammerhead sharks, yet the thought of diving Lake Michigan gives me the chills. It can be done, though, and since our great lake boasts more shipwrecks than any other, one day, I’ll get over my apprehension and dive in. N’Pursuit Adventure Charters Chicago offers scuba diving excursions and focuses on the wealth of wreak dives in our great lake. You’ll explore the remains of the David Dows, a 5 masted schooner, one of the grandest to sail the Great Lakes, or the Material Service, a 240′ long sunken motor barge. You’ll need at least a basic scuba license. One tank dive start at $90 and departs most days at 8 a.m. or 1 p.m.

Amy Bocchetta is a writer, a teacher, and a mom to two kids. She lives in the city and blogs at TiramisuMom.com.
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