EDGEWATER — Ernesto Pablo and his paddleboarding dog, Prince, have become local celebrities on the lakefront.
The two can be seen paddling on Lake Michigan near Edgewater almost every day — when weather allows — from May through November. Pablo’s caught the attention of neighbors and passersby, who have recognized him on the street and posted about his and his dog’s exploits on social media.
Pablo started paddleboarding when he moved to Edgewater about seven years ago, using it as a way to stay active and take advantage of the lake, which he has direct access to from his apartment building, he said.
Within a month of starting, Pablo decided to try taking his border collie, Prince, along for the ride.
“At first I was doing it alone, and then later on I go, ‘Oh! My dog’s gotta go with me one day,'” said Pablo, 50.
Since that day, the two have been an inseparable duo on the water — and they’ve become familiar faces in Edgewater.
Neighbors recognize Pablo when he’s out and about, Pablo said. They often ask him how he keeps Prince from falling in the water.
It turns out the 8-year-old dog is built for the sport. It was “so easy” to train him, Pablo said.
“It didn’t take a really long time,” Pablo said. “At first he would fall and then I would pick him up. He learned pretty quickly, within a few days. He’s balancing. Even now, he’s getting better and better each single day.”
Pablo tells Prince to stand, sit or stay depending on how he wants the paddleboard to move — and he gives the pup treats accordingly, he said.
“Even if the waves are high, if the waters are choppy, he would just go along with it,” Pablo said. “When the waves are high, he can still manage to balance.”
Pablo grew up in the Phillippines and his uncle was a fisherman, so he has always loved being on the water, he said. He often went fishing and boating with his family growing up, and being on a paddleboard with his dog gives him the same feeling, he said.
Between work and missing his family and friends — most of them live in the Philippines or elsewhere in the United States — being in the water helps ease Pablo’s anxiety and homesickness, he said.
“Every time we’re in the water, I forget about everything,” Pablo said. “Lake Michigan, it’s a nice thing to have, to live by the lake and paddleboard. Like today, probably after work, if the weather is nice, we’ll go in the water.”
The love and encouragement Pablo receives from his neighbors inspired him to post in an Edgewater Facebook group, identifying himself and Prince and sharing photos from his time on the water.
One neighbor commented Pablo is “an Edgewater celebrity sighting” for her family, while another neighbor said Prince is “quite possibly one of the most recognized dogs on the Chicago lakefront.” Several people also shared photos they’ve taken over the past year of the two paddleboarding.
“We’re out there to bring happiness to people and joy and just make sure we live in a great community here,” Pablo said.
Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast”: