Matt Lennert is a man on a mission. He is planning a 50 mile Lake Michigan crossing on a Stand Up Paddle Board. A chicago chef and avid paddler, Matt is out to show that Chicago is a great place for SUP. Not only is Matt doing the run to promote stand up, he is also raising awareness of two of his favorite causes, Lake Michigan and healthy eating. We talked with Matt about his crossing, training and the state of SUP in Chicago. For more info on Matt's crossing and to find out how you can join him, check out windycitywaterman.com
How long have you been paddling? Did you come from a surfing,
windsurfing or paddling(kayak/canoe) background?
I grew up sailing boats and I did a little windsurfing back in the late
'80s, then got seriously into windsurfing around 2000 and started surfing
and SUPing 4 years ago.
Were seeing a lot more paddlers in madison every day. How big is
sup in Chicago?
SUP seems to be lagging a bit in Chicago… That's one of the reasons I
launched Windy City Waterman. I want to increase awareness of SUP and the waterman lifestyle and encourage people to get out and enjoy this beautiful lake we have right at our front door. The fact that Chicago is a bit behind seems evident in the fact that we don't have a stop on the Midwest SUP tour. I hope to host a Midwest SUP Tour stop and WPA race in Chicago next year.
Where did the idea of the crossing come from? Were you motivated by
other Paddlers doing long paddles for good causes?
There are a lot of paddlers doing crossings and endurance paddles for
charity and I have definitely been inspired by them. I think it's one of
the coolest things happening in SUP right now. A Lake Michigan crossing
just seemed like the natural endurance feat to draw attention to the sport
How is your training going? Tell us a bit about your training
schedule and methods.
Training is going really well so far, but the hard part is still coming up.
I'm paddling 5 days a week doing 6-8 mile sprints most days with one longer
paddle each week. My first long paddle was 10 miles and they increase 4
miles each week until the week before the crossing, when I'll be doing a
training paddle of 38 miles. I'm also practicing tail-drop turns, doing
sprints and working on agility for the races I'll be doing. In between all
these sessions I fit in a few strength and flexibility workouts each week
What conditions are needed to do the crossing?
We're starting in St. Joseph, Michigan because we want to finish in Chicago,
so the ideal condition would be an East or South East wind, which is very
unlikely. For that time of year, it's a better chance we'll have almost no
wind, which would be fine. If there's a headwind stronger than 10 knots or
so, we will probably will hold off. We're keeping the 15th open as a backup
day for weather, so hopefully one of those days will be good.
Tell us about your equipment?
I am super impressed with the boards and paddles from Naish. I am doing
most of my training on the 14' Javelin. The carbon construction is really
light and stiff, and the board has amazing glide. I have the 14' Glide for
rougher conditions on Lake Michigan, and it has also been great. I've had a
couple opportunities to do some multi-mile downwind runs and the Glide surfs very well. I'm keeping my eye on the weather for a windy, wavy day to do a long downwinder, cause it's really fun connecting the bumps and surfing. I can see that downwinders are going to be a new favorite activity. For paddles I'm using the all carbon Naish paddles in 8' and 9'. I've found
that I'm using the 9' pretty much all the time. I'm trying to increase
muscle mass, so having the additional resistance in the water has been
working for me. The paddle has great catch, a lot of power in the stroke
and a really clean release.
Do your feet ever fall asleep while paddling, it seams like a common
thing on long paddles. Does this happen to you? Are you concerned
My feet haven't ever completetly fallen asleep, but the balls of my feet do
tend to get sore and tingly. I regularly flex up my toes while I paddle and
once in a while I roll off the balls of my feet onto my heels for a second
when I'm between paddles strokes. This move really seems to help.
As a chef, what does the day of the crossing look like as far as
food and hydration before and during the paddle? Also, as a chef, what
will be your celebratory meal after you reach Chicago?
Actually, nutrition has been one of my biggest challenges in my early
training. I bonked a couple times on training paddles and realized that I
needed to increase my caloric intake to keep up with everything I'm doing.
According to my heart monitor, I'm burning about 550 calories per hour of
moderate paddling - even more when I'm pushing at race pace. My diet was
already really good - I eat lots of green leafy vegetables, whole grains and
lean meats - but I needed to at least double my caloric intake, so I started
doing some protien shakes and adding small meals in between my normal meals. I'm still refining things, but it's definitely working. I have been feeling great the last few training sessions. For hydration, I'm drinking 15-20
ounces of water an hour throughout the day, then 16-ounces of an electrolyte drink (I like the Clif Bar one) during paddles. The electrolyte drink seems to really help keep my energy up compared to plain water. I haven't thought about my celebretory meal yet. Probably something simple like a big burger, grilled medium-rare with some extra crispy fries and a nice cold beer. Oh, and a big salad with a lot of fresh, crunchy vegetables in it. That meal is going to taste sooooo good!
You've opened an invitation to other qualified Paddlers. Any takers
I've had a bunch of people express interest, but nobody's in 100% yet. Some
of the Naish team paddlers have said they'd like to do it. I hope we can
get a good group of people, because I think it would have a bigger impact
and be better for the sport. I'm inviting the pro teams from all the brands
to send someone out to paddle with us. Getting Chicago fired up for SUP
You're doing this for two charities, tell us what they mean to you.
The Alliance for the Great Lakes is doing amazing work to protect the Lakes.
A lot of people don't think about the fact that all the Great Lakes are
connected - it's effectively one big ecosystem and needs to be seen that way when you address environmental problems. You can't just protect the Lake you live on. Obviously, I love the water and I feel really lucky to have
Lake Michigan as my playground, so I am happy to help the Alliance protect
it. My choice of Common Threads came from my food background. I love food and cooking and I've always been interested in nutrition, so everything
that's going on with industrial food really infuriates me. People are
getting further and further from the sources of their food, foods are over
processed and stripped of nutrients, and people aren't cooking at home at
all anymore. Everybody is eating the wrong things and too much of them and
it's making them sick. Common Threads is addressing this problem for the
future generations by teaching kids how to cook nutritious, wholesome meals at their classes and workshops. My wife Kim and I are teaching at their
summer camp this August and we're really excited to be involved.
What do you love about Lake Michigan?
Lake Michigan is so awesome. It offers a beautiful venue to do almost
anything you can do on the water… But it's like that girl who plays
hard-to-get. Perfect conditions to surf or windsurf are often elusive.
That's one of the reasons I am so excited about SUP. Now I get on the water
no matter what.
Any other big paddles in your future, are there other non-profits
you would like to assist through paddling?
Yes, definitely! I am having so much fun with this I can't imagine
stopping. Plus, having the crossing coming up has really pushed me to train
harder than I ever had in my life. I really like what this challenge has
brought out in me, and I want to see more of it! There are lots of great
charities out there. I'd really like to help Surfrider Chicago… They are
doing amazing grass-roots work to keep our beaches clean and inspire people in Chicago to get out on the water. I don't have my next endurance paddle planned yet, but I've got a few ideas… You'll have to stay tuned to my
website to find out!
Before I go I have to say a big THANK YOU to my wife, Kim. She has been
amazingly supportive of this whole project and everything I do on the water.
I wouldn't be doing any of this without her. Thanks, Kim!