State of the Beach/State Reports/IL/Surfing Areas

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Illinois Ratings
Indicator Type Information Status
Beach Access76
Water Quality65
Beach Erosion6-
Erosion Response-3
Beach Fill6-
Shoreline Structures7 3
Beach Ecology1-
Surfing Areas35
Coastal Development{{{19}}}{{{20}}}
Sea Level Rise{{{21}}}{{{22}}}

Inventory and Perception of Status

Believe it or not, there are at least 64 well-known surfing spots along Lake Michigan. Most good surf spots are located adjacent to shoreline structures like jetties and piers. Surfing locations include Holland, Grand Haven, Muskegon, South Haven, Ludington and Traverse City. People come from as far away as the Chicago and Milwaukee areas to surf these spots.

The surf spots are generally in fair condition. However, concerns have been raised about water quality. Only the state and city beaches are tested, and there have been an increasing number of beach closures due to high bacteria levels. Awareness of this problem has been increasing in the press and in local and state governments. Lake Michigan provides a wide variety of water recreation opportunities, with beach and boating access as high priorities. Windsurfing is a popular sport along the Great Lakes as well as in various inland waters.

Recognition by State

Illinois does not recognize surfing as an economic, cultural, and recreational resource. In fact, until recently, surfing was effectively banned in Chicago because surfboards were covered by a Chicago Park District ban on flotation devices at its beaches.

That changed, however, when a group of surfers led by Vince Deur, who founded the Surfrider Foundation's Lake Michigan chapter in 2007, began working with Chicago Park District Supt. Timothy Mitchell to propose allowing surfing at certain Chicago beach locations. "Surfers have been surfing the lake for years and years without a problem," said Deur, 41, of Grand Rapids, Mich. "We feel really strongly that it's good for the city -- it sells the city."

In June 2009, after 9+ months of letters, emails, phone calls and meetings, activists from Surfrider Foundation's Lake Michigan Chapter and the new Chicago Chapter succeeded in making surfing officially legal at 4 beaches in the City of Chicago!

  • Memorial Day - Labor Day - Montrose Beach and 57th St. Beach
  • Labor Day - Memorial Day (off season) - Montrose, 57th, Osterman & Rainbow Beaches are open to surfing at your own risk.

Here are the rules specific to surfing.

Surfing in Chicago made the news again in early 2012 when a man was arrested for surfing at a beach that was not designated as a surfing beach. We continue to believe that surfing should not be a crime.

Surfrider Foundation Chapters

Chicago Chapter41° 52' 41.21" N, 87° 37' 47.27" W

<html><fieldset class="rcoptions"> <legend></html>Chicago Chapter<html></legend></html> Chicago Chapter Website

Surfrider Foundation's Chicago Chapter has been reborn! Contact them to get involved!

You can contact the Chicago Chapter via email at


Other Nearby Chapters

Surfrider Foundation also has a Lake Michigan Chapter based in Grand Haven, Michigan, a Minnesota-Superior Chapter and a Milwaukee Chapter.

Information Sources

Sources of information on surfing on Lake Michigan include:

State of the Beach Report: Illinois
Illinois Home Beach Description Beach Access Water Quality Beach Erosion Erosion Response Beach Fill Shoreline Structures Beach Ecology Surfing Areas Website
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