Chicago winters can be tough. We only get a few months of perfect temperatures, which makes for a sublime summer. My family takes full advantage of the heat by hanging out at Lake Michigan, known to Midwesterners as the Third Coast. On most weekends, you’ll find us relaxing on our sailboat, but this year we’ve found a new way to enjoy the lake through standup paddleboarding. Nowhere to store a standup paddleboard? You’ll be blown away by this inflatable version!

Stand up paddle boarding's easy for kids to enjoy. photo credit: Andrea Guthmann

Stand up paddle boarding’s easy for kids to enjoy. photo credit: Andrea Guthmann

What SUP?

Stand-up paddleboarding, or SUP, is a fitness trend that’s sailed into most of our neighborhoods. Whether you live on one of the coasts, or near an inland lake, stand-up paddleboarding is a great workout, and a great way to go exploring and have fun doing it. Originating in Hawaii, SUP has been around for nearly a decade, but has been riding a wave of popularity in recent years. Whatever body of water I travel to, I now find I can easily rent one.

I’ve found SUP is easy for kids as well. This summer we wanted to enjoy the stand-up paddleboarding not just on vacation, but in our home town of Chicago. Lake Michigan often has calm waters, making it perfect for SUP.

We wanted to pick up the sport, without having to drag a huge board around with us, or need a huge space to store it in. So, we tried out the newest trends in paddleboards… inflatables.

The accompanying air pump inflates the board in under two minutes. photo courtesy: Andrea Guthmann

The accompanying air pump inflates the board in under two minutes. photo courtesy: Andrea Guthmann

Jumping on the Inflatable Trend

Worried about where you’ll store your stand-up paddleboard?  No need. There are now plenty of inflatable options. Our family tried out the Sevylor inflatable paddleboard. Sevylor makes a wide selection of inflatable kayaks, canoes, boats, and even a couple of paddleboards. They are easy to travel with and a breeze to blow up. Each board comes with a compact hand pump and it only took us a few minutes to inflate. It was simple enough for my seven-year-old to blow one up.

I love that even kids as young as six or seven can easily maneuver around on this paddleboard. My daughter and nephews alternated between lying on it like a raft, sitting on it like it was a canoe, and standing on it for paddle boarding. We started off with having the paddle board tethered to the dock, until we were sure they could operate it properly. Soon enough we were willing to let them explore the harbor a bit. As any parent knows, entertaining the kids all summer (without electronic devices) can be a real challenge. But warm weather’s in short supply in the Midwest, so I really want my kids to enjoy the outdoors in the summer. Luckily,  the paddle board bought us hours of entertainment!

Renting a Paddle Board in Chicago

There are plenty of places on Lake Michigan to rent stand-up paddleboards. On the city’s north side, stand-up paddleboards can be rented at Montrose or North Avenue beaches. No prior experience or instruction is needed. Kayak Chicago rents them for $20 per hour, or $80 for the entire day. If you rent at Montrose Beach, make sure and stop by The Dock restaurant. It’s my favorite place to eat in the summer! This casual al fresco restaurant has live music nightly. Tables are just steps from the sand, so your kids can be playing in the sand while you’re waiting for your food. They even allow dogs! There’s a cornhole game too, for families to enjoy. Kids can eat off of the kids menu or enjoy a burger. I always angle for salad with the sliced ahi tuna.

Stand up paddle boards provide kids with hours of entertainment. photo courtesy: Andrea GUthmann

Stand up paddle boards provide kids with hours of entertainment. photo courtesy: Andrea Guthmann

Of course, we’ve got our conveniently portable inflatable version of the boards, so we won’t need to rent anything. I’m looking forward to trying out the inflatable kayak or canoe next. Wouldn’t that be perfect for a camping trip or just a quick canoe day trip?!

Have you or your kids tried stand-up paddleboarding? How’d it go? Let us know in the comments below.