Chicago, IL

Chicago Surfers Take on Some of the Biggest Waves Recorded on Lake Michigan

Natalie Frank, Ph.D.

Surfers fought to master 16-foot waves at Hartigan Beach in Rogers Park.
Two surfers at Hartigan Beach in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago fight huge waves in Lake Michigan WednesdayAuthor

Two surfers at Hartigan Beach fought the violent waves that rose up 16-feet from Lake Michigan, Wednesday. The two men were observed to fight with the large waves that rolled into shore one on top of another to pound the beachfront. One was seen to successfully gain his footing on top of his board to surf for a few seconds before the board sank gracefully in the shallow water, with him still balanced on top.

The other surfer seemed to have trouble in the midst of the waves, looking as if he was unable to move for several minutes as the water held him trapped in place. The first surfer eventually swam out to his friend, and the two sat atop their boards as onlookers waited to see if they’d manage to surf in. After a few minutes, both paddled in without attempting to gain their feet, then struggled to walk their boards into land as they reached shallower water.

The waves weren’t all the surfers had to contend with as wind bust of up to 50 miles an hour made the waters even rougher and blew sand from the beach into their faces. One of the men stepped onto the beach but was almost pulled over as the wind caught his board which was tethered to his leg and sent it flying away from him. Luckily, an onlooker was close enough to grab the board and help him secure it. It took several more minutes before the other surfer stepped from the water and his friend was ready to prevent the board from blowing away from him. A number of water spouts were also reported during the day but none were observed at Hartigan beach during the time the surfers were in the water.

As the surfers ended their day and the sun began to set, the sky turned from a dull steel grey, to orange and the wave tips looked as if they were lit on fire. The sky then turned astounding shades of pinks and purples as onlookers shifted their attention from the surfers to the horizon taking photos and videos of the unusual sight.

Weather warnings were issued for Thursday as massive waves again pounded the shores and strong wind gusts whipped the damp sand into the air. Residents were warned that while the waves can be exciting to look at, they can be very dangerous even when standing on shore as the strong wind gusts can cause waves to travel farther inland than anticipated, This can catch observers unaware and knocking them over or even pulling them into the lake. Some joggers along the beach path today were hit by large waves and barricades were erected to prevent further problems for residents who wanted to walk along the churning waters but were unaware of the dangers. Beaches remain closed and there are no longer lifeguards on duty.

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Chicago, IL

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