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Matt Lennert and his Lake Michigan SUP Mission
06.22.2011
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 in Chicago.

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 too.

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 about it?
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 yet?
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 benefits everyone!

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!

 

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