Forty – Three Degrees

They arrive at the lake around the time the sun’s rays first kiss the tree tops. Before most people hit the snooze button on their alarm clock in the morning, these adventurers are preparing to take on Lake Michigan.

In early May, when the water temperature is around a chilly forty-three degrees, a group of Chicagoans meet at Promontory Point for their first swim of the year. Throughout the summer and into late fall, in calm or rough waters, they start their day with a swim out into the vastness of the Lake.

On a typical day, they meet, exchange greetings, make small talk, laugh softly, and cast glances at the lake as they change into their swim suits. Then, one by one, they adjust their goggles, step onto a ladder, lower themselves into the water, push off and start stroking, soon they’re just tiny specs among the waves.

After about thirty to forty minutes, they’ll climb out of the lake looking, well, invigorated. After they get dressed, it’s off to Bonjours, a French bakery that’s nearby, for coffee, baugettes and conversation.

In November, when the water temperature is around a chilly forty-three degrees again, they hang up their goggles and call it a season. But, for most of the year, they’ve gotten their high from facing down a challenge in a natural environment.

It’s not surprising that many of them are world-class achievers. Among them are artists, architects, executives and athletes. Ted Erikson, 82, the groups inspiration and elder statesman, was the first person to swim across Lake Michigan.

I asked some of them, why they do it, and what’s it like to be on your own, far from shore. Here’s some of their comments:

“Reason?” Lockwood laughs, “because I don’t have air conditioning.  No, the lake is a great resource, so why not take advantage? Not may cities have something this.

“Swimming in the lake is a great way to see the city from a different point of view, you’re detached from everything. Every day it’s a changing environment.”

-Elizabeth Lockwood

Deirdre Hamilles – Squire

“I’ve been swimming out here for six or seven years.” – Pam Birnie

“It’s glorious and wild. I love it. I love the lake and want to be in it.” – Sara Bigger

Dory Rand

Ted Erikson – In 1961, Erikson became the first person to swim across Lake Michigan

“Where else can you ride your bike a quarter of a mile, swim in Lake Michigan, and then go to a French bakery for breakfast?

“It’s where I go to pray.” – Linda Klum

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2 Responses to Forty – Three Degrees

  1. Ted Erikson says:

    This area has been an active training ground for marathon, distance, and recreational swimmers for over 40 years!!

  2. Ted Erikson says:

    Having swam at the “Point” for some 40 years,in the past, and present, they are being called “Sunshiners”

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