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Standup Paddleboarding Offers 'Different View of City' at Osterman Beach

 Michael "Westy" Westenberger paddles off Kathy Osterman Beach in Edgewater.
Michael "Westy" Westenberger paddles off Kathy Osterman Beach in Edgewater.
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DNAinfo/Benjamin Woodard

EDGEWATER — Paddles up at Kathy Osterman Beach.

Standup paddleboarder Michael "Westy" Westenberg — who runs Edgewater-based Chicago Paddle Co. — expects winter-weary Chicagoans to turn out in droves this holiday weekend to paddle out into Lake Michigan.

"It's going to be a beautiful weekend," the 39-year-old said outside the shipping container that contains his 24 surf boards, with the Lakefront Trail to the west and the beach's sand to the east. "We expect it to be big."

Ben Woodard discusses Edgewater-based Chicago Paddle Co.:

The business he started last year with his girlfriend, Amy Leffingwell, has found success in Edgewater. This summer, after a brutal winter, he expects to do twice as much business.

Westenberg said people are beginning to realize the beauty of standup paddleboarding, a sport more common along the world's saltwater beaches.

"The people have been really receptive to it," said Westenberger, a sponsored racer who enters standup paddling competitions throughout the country.

In Chicago, he said, the main benefit is getting "a different view of the city" 100 yards from the beach.

"Sometimes, I'm standing up here, and we look out and they're [paddlers] just sitting" on their boards, he said. "I'd paddle out there and ask, 'Is everything OK?' And they're like, 'Yeah, it's just so quiet out here — We're not used to it.'

"They just love it."

They also offer different types of paddleboarding classes, such as yoga and Pilates. On Monday nights, only ladies are invited to attend the popular "Chicks with Sticks" social paddle.

Westenberger, from Green Bay, Wis., began paddling seven years ago. Last year, he moved from Key West, Fla., where he was a standup paddleboarding instructor and boat captain, to launch the business with Leffingwell.

They chose Edgewater because "it's quiet," Leffingwell said, and void of most boat and jet ski traffic.

"That's one of the things we love about being at Kathy Osterman Beach," said the 43-year-old. "How beautiful this beach is."