Paddle Chicago: Stand Up Paddle Boarding at North Avenue Beach
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My inflatable stand up paddle board (iSUP) is perfect for the city because it’s portable. I can transport it in my iSUP backpack, strap it to my bike trailer, check it on an airplane, or throw it in the trunk of my car. When I go the backpack route, my limit is typically half a mile - my back prefers the trailer for any longer distance. Yesterday, I learned about the Lake Michigan Water Trail and as a result, carried my board for 2 miles - not the best decision!
The Lake Michigan Water Trail designates certain areas in Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan that are approved launch points for non-motorized watercraft such as kayaks and stand up paddle boards. This summer, Chicago Paddle Company started renting paddle boards on Oak Street Beach. Yay - I can launch from a beach closer to me now! Not so fast. Oak Street Beach is about a mile from my apartment, which is a stretch to carry my iSUP, but I decided to give it a go. I arrived at Oak Street, start unloading my board and was told I can’t launch personal watercraft from the beach. The only way to launch from Oak Street Beach is to rent a board from Chicago Paddle Company because they have a permit to launch on a beach that isn't on the Lake Michigan Water Trail. Well, that stinks. I decided I’d go ahead and walk another mile to North Avenue Beach which is an approved launch point on the Lake Michigan Water Trail and also has gorgeous city views. My back isn’t happy about this decision, but I wasn’t going home.
UPDATE: Since writing this post, Chicago Paddle Company has moved from Oak Street Beach to Ohio Street Beach for rentals. Personal watercraft launching is not allowed at either beach, but if you want to rent a paddle board, Ohio Street will provide some pretty great views just like Oak Street!
North Avenue Beach is a happening place - music, paddle boards, kayaks, jet skis, restaurants, and tons of beach goers. The best place to launch your paddle board is the very south east end of the beach near where the rentals and jet skis launch. If you don’t have your own stand up paddle board, rent one from Chicago SUP. If you're looking for a kayak rental, check out Kayak Chicago. Before I owned an iSUP, I rented paddle boards from them at Montrose Beach and they are great! They only offer kayak rentals at North Avenue Beach.
North Avenue Beach is one of the largest beaches in the city and the skyline views are absolutely stunning. It's one of my favorite views in the entire city. The beach can also get a little crazy on the weekends. If you want to enjoy the views, but avoid the crowded beaches, paddling the water is the perfect solution. As always, I suggest starting early if you want a calm water paddle. Once the boats and jet skis are on the water, it gets pretty choppy in this area.
After you've worked up an appetite paddling, head over to the beach and check out Castaways for vendor type food and a party scene. If you are looking for a nicer dining experience, check out Shore Club. I went a couple weeks ago for dinner and the sunset views are worth the trip! There is good reason North Avenue Beach made my Top 5 Stand Up Paddle Boarding Spots in Chicago. The views and easy beach access make it a perfect paddle destination in Chicago. While you're there, check out one of Chicago's most popular beaches!