CHICAGO — Mike Killion and a handful of other brave surfers didn't mind the freezing temperatures this weekend — when they hit the waves and turned into human icicles.
Killion, an Albany Park resident, Columbia College Chicago graduate and professional photographer, surfed on Saturday in Northwest Indiana near the Chicago border, then captured photos of his fellow surfers covered in ice.
"It's for the love of fun and being outside and being with your friends," Killion said. "It doesn't matter what the conditions are like as long as you have a smile on your face."
Mike Killion with a face full of icicles after surfing in freezing conditions in Lake Michigan. [Mike Killion]
Northwest Indiana has some surfing hotspots, but Chicago itself is not the best place to surf. That's because its shoreline is sculpted by the Army Corps of Engineers' breakwalls, piers and jetties, according to Mitch McNeil, chair of the Surfrider Chicago chapter.
The best waves in city waters are probably in Lake Michigan off 57th Street Beach, which has a "gently sloping, natural sand bottom," McNeil said. He also noted there "are a few private spots here and there that most folks don't know about."
Surfing in frozen water is more difficult in Lake Michigan and other Great Lakes because fresh water begins to freeze at just 32 degrees Fahrenheit. But it's also when lake surfers say they encounter some of the best waves. In the ocean, the salt water won't freeze until it reaches a temperature of minus-6 degrees Fahrenheit.
"It's like nature's cryotherapy," said Logan Square's Tommy Shimenetto, who surfed Saturday. "The cold is so quiet, then you hear what sounds like a chandelier shaking, and you realize that sound is coming from the icicles on your face."
Killion makes calendars featuring Great Lakes surfing. Those interested in purchasing a calendar can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Matthew Veenstra (left) and Rusty Malkemes after a frozen day of surfing. [Mike Killion]
Peter Matushek (left) and Tommy Shimenetto after a frozen day of surfing. [Mike Killion]
Logan Square's Tommy Shimenetto, who surfed Saturday, with icicles forming on his beard. [Tommy Shimenetto]
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