Janée Matteson is a little wary of technology. The more ubiquitous it becomes, she finds, it has more potential to keep kids indoors (a trend she has dubbed “acute nature deficit disorder”). Janée, whose family’s roots have been growing in Morris for nearly 200 years, basically spent her entire childhood outside, learning fur trapping and duck hunting with her father on the banks of the Illinois River. So in addition to her deep passion for the outdoors, founding Kayak Morris was largely inspired by doing whatever she could to help kids, their families, and domesticated teddy bears spend more time in nature.
Kayak Morris offers kayak and canoe lessons, and in addition, patrons can borrow their largely new fleet for leisurely trips along the Illinois River, Mazon River, or Illinois and Michigan Canal, which are home to wildlife such as great-blue herons, bald eagles, coyotes and red-tailed hawks. The staff also lead guided ecotours, which teach kids and adults about natural resources and what they can do to preserve and protect them for future generations. Family-focused private campgrounds is adjacent to the State Park along the rivers’ sandy shores invite groups to stay for monthly Glampouts (glamorous campouts) and spend their days taking advantage of potluck dinners, hiking, fishing, bike rentals, or guided kayak tours and to spend their nights watching a movie on Morris’ outdoor projection screen as campfires crackle nearby.
MunkyBoards' electronic skateboards carry riders on four-wheeled adventures throughout the city at speeds of up to 18 miles per hour. Available in two sizes with different power capabilities, boards can travel as far as 9 miles before they need to recharge—just like clown cars powered by other drivers' fear. Mushc like the boards themselves, designs draw inspiration from both futuristic imagery and contemporary transportation; decks on the shorter boards feature imagery inspired by the coveted hoverboard from Back to the Future Part II, and larger decks sport a map of the CTA's train system.
The hustle and bustle of the city can’t touch the calm waters of Lake Michigan. There, on gently rolling waves surrounded by fresh breezes, Kayak Chicago hosts tours and lessons, and lets paddlers take to the waters on their own with rentals. Captained by Dave Olson, a kayaker for more than 20 years and outdoor educator for more than 10, the company entrusts certified instructors and guides with shaping the strokes of kayaking newbies. Their tours take aquatic explorers out on the lake at night to ooh and ahh over summer fireworks or along the Chicago River to survey the city’s renowned architecture and map out their next bank heist. The staff also plants patrons on standup paddleboards for introductory lessons or wave-top rounds of SUPYoga or SUPPilates.
Wateriders' experienced and knowledgeable guides have been leading relaxed kayak tours down Chicago’s picturesque waterways since 1997. Day and night tours explore the city's most exciting attributes, focusing on history, architecture, and eerie mob chronicles as guides provide paddling instruction and share true tales of Al Capone's mythical collection of tracksuits. Wateriders also rents its kayaks to independent paddlers who prefer to discover Chicago's sights on their own.
Ian Jacobson, the founder of Chicago SUP and Wakeboard Chicago, grew up on the Lake, and started his board-top paddling program after his passion for the sport ignited during a trip to Hawaii. His love for the low-impact activity also feeds his interest in its safety; as he spreads awareness of the sport, he makes sure customers know when it's safe to venture out into calm or choppy water. His passionate team gathers a range of paddling certifications, such as ACA and WPA, and many staffers are equipped with official training in first aid and CPR as well as unofficial training in blowing bubbles. Some of the team honed their boarding skills on the waves of California and Hawaii, and several boast a background in stand-up paddleboard yoga and fitness instruction.
Dubbed "the epicenter for the paddle community in Chicago" by Chicago Now, Chicago SUP ignites Jacobson's passion for the sport of standup paddleboarding in others with rentals and instruction atop calm waters boasting sweeping skyline views. As shoulders, backs, and arms work to propel the boards forward under his instruction, the core engages to keep balance on the board, resulting in a full-body workout enlivened with the pleasure of sunny skies and the thrill of submarine sightings in Lake Michigan. The company was featured on NBC Chicago's 1st Look and in the Chicago Tribune, grabbing Jacobson attention for pioneering the relaxing full-body workout in the Midwest, as well as for their innovative board-top yoga classes (SUPyo) and SUPFit classes. In the 2013 Expedition Paddle Series, he and his team point paddlers toward attainable goals as they paddle decked in headlamps toward Navy Pier for fireworks, or simply take in the skyline at sunset or the full moon above.