PHOTOS: Belle Isle Swim Club calmly continues while Chicago cancels

Every Friday morning, between 7am and 9am, a joyful group gathers at a beach on Belle Isle to make the most of the waters. Some swim, some splash, some just wade and float. With coffee supplied by Corktown's James Oliver Coffee, the club started in July this year and has been known to draw up to 70 people on a busy day.

The ritual was a summer favorite nationally this year, with Chicago's version canceled for the rest of the season after it swelled beyond expectations and met with park district issues. The Belle Isle mornings are much calmer affairs and, with eco-therapy stepping into focus during the pandemic, it's no surprise the crew are all smiles.

Many studies are looking further into the relationship between encountering water and boosting mental health, with a global study concluding that "when people engage in aquatic exercise, primarily in a group setting, that engagement has a positive effect on improving people’s moods and their psychological wellbeing, decreasing depressive moods and feelings of anxiety". 

We sent along photographer Nick Hagen to see why folks are rising early to be a part of the fun here.

Editors Note: Founder of the Belle Isle Swim Club, Lauren Boyle, is the niece of Issue Media Group's co-founder, Brian Boyle. 

Matt Morris sets up James Oliver coffee at a picnic table near the Belle Isle Swim Club's meeting spot on the beach.

Nick Dal Pra signs into the club after taking a swim.
Cambrey Thomas holds her coffee mug while looking out at the river.

In center, Carlos Parisi gets coffee.
Steph Joseph, a project manager for the swim club, runs into the river.
Claire Bearett shows off her mug.

Diandra Gourlay chats with her friend Ellen Duff near the picnic table where swimmers gather for coffee.

Belle Isle Swim Club founder chats with her partner Matt Morris.

Chuck McKeever puts a shirt back on after drying off.
All Photos by Nick Hagen. 
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