Jumping in Lake Michigan before work on Friday is the craziest idea. It’s just crazy enough that I had to do it. Friday Morning Swim Club is a group in Chicago that jumps into Lake Michigan from Montrose Beach every Friday during the summer.
That is it was. Until a few weeks ago when things took and turn, and the group organizers had to cancel the group for the rest of the summer.
The Friday Morning Swim Club started because a couple of friends were training for a triathlon, and they wanted to jump into Lake Michigan at the end of their morning training regimen.
It is not a shock that, over time, other people wanted to join. That’s the start of Friday Morning Swim Club.
I learned about the club from a friend, and we decided to make our first jump last year. We get to Montrose Beach early in the morning, around 6:40 a.m. The sun isn’t up, the sky is foggy, and the streets of Chicago are still empty. It’s not as cold as anticipated today, but we brought tons of towels and sweatshirts to prepare for the hard jolt of jumping into freezing Lake Michigan early in the morning.
We are early, and they start to serve the cold brew coffee. We are among the lucky few who arrive early enough for the free cold brew coffee.
A few minutes pass, and crowds pour in, eager to take the morning plunge.
The best way I can think of to describe the energy at Friday Morning Swim Club is summer camp—that feeling of pure joy and excitement over something as small as jumping into the lake.
Over a megaphone, they announce when to jump. On the second announcement my friend and I leap into the cold water. Immediately, my body is awake. Lake Michigan is a better way to wake up than any cold brew. We are swimming and looking at the city skyline ahead of us. This feels like summer, and I knew that Friday Morning Swim Club would become a core memory.
It was magical until the cops showed up, and now Friday Morning Swim Club is considered dangerous.
This summer the crowds were different, and I could sense a shift in the feeling of the event at my last jump. I brushed off the feeling. It could be because it wasn’t my first jump , and the novelty had worn off, but I felt a shift in the energy from the previous jump. It was still that playful energy, but there were a lot more people, and that playful energy did turn worrisome at some points. This time, people didn’t jump together; everyone just jumped in. There were too many people to have organized jumps.
No one could hear anything when the announcement was made, unlike last year. We waited until those closer to the megaphone jumped in the water before leaping. It was more chaotic.
During our second jump, my friend and I had to wait a long time before getting out. The latter crowded with people eager to get out. We are good swimmers, so it didn’t bother us to tread water in the lake a little longer.
Then, Friday Morning Swim Club started to make headlines for ground breaking numbers. Thousands of jumpers showed up, excited to be a part of the community.
Within the following weeks, police officers began showing up to try to control the safety hazards.
Ultimately, the event organizers canceled the last few Friday Morning Swim Club events for the summer due to pressure from the Chicago Park District.
It saddens me that such a wholesome and fun event had to be canceled because everyone wanted to participate. It will still be one of my favorite memories of summer in Chicago.
I am hopeful they will work something out, and we will see season 4 of Friday Morning Swim Club in Chicago.