Paddleboarders complete trek across Lake Huron

ALPENA — After 28 hours, 100 miles and 73,920 paddleboard strokes the group Stand Up for the Great Lakes finished its journey across Lake Huron.

At about 6 a.m. Sunday Kwin Morris, Jeff Guy and Joe Lorenz, all of Traverse City, left for Tobermory, Ontario. All three were welcomed by Canadians at the Fathom Five National Marine Park a day later.

“So I guess the best way to describe it, it was the most physically and mentally challenging thing in my life,” Morris said.

This was not the first paddle trip across a Great Lake for the group. The paddlers also crossed Lake Michigan a few years ago.

“This was above and beyond that; it was 30 miles longer,” Morris said.

Whenever the group crosses a Great Lake it chooses a nonprofit to raise money for. For this journey they raised money for Friends of the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Morris said so far they’ve raised about $7,000.

To cross the lake the boarders had to travel with two safety boats.

One boat was driven by Wayne Calkins and carried sanctuary media coordinator Stephanie Gandulla and sanctuary volunteer Al Moe. The other boat was driven by Morris’ brother and sister-in-law. Local paramedic Mike Sanders was in this boat in case anyone needed medical attention.

Gandulla said Calkins’ help was wonderful because he donated the use of the boat, fuel and expertise as a captain.

“He drove the boat the entire way. He had to be on the wheel the whole time and was really focused. To drive that slow is a lot harder than you think because it affects how they have to steer. We had to put a sea anchor out because it’s really hard to drive that slow,” Gandulla said.

She said the paddlers average pace was about 3.5 miles per hour. They took a break every 55 minutes for five minutes, Moe said.

“I couldn’t believe how rapidly the time went,” Moe said. “We were trying to keep everyone busy and we set up and fished as a bit of entertainment.”

But, those moments were earlier on toward the start of the trip, Moe said.

“As night approached it became clear the night piece of our responsibilities was a big one,” Moe said.

At night he said it was almost impossible to see ahead of the boat which made it easier for the boarders to drift away from the safety boats.

“At nighttime is when things got sketchy. The winds picked up the waves were sloshing around. Every joint was aching. Every stroke was a challenge. It helped knowing they were struggling too. So I didn’t feel alone. When we had to sit down and drink water it took everything I had to get back up,” Morris said.

He said when day broke and they traveled for about 22 hours he questioned if he could go much further.

“It’s just one of things. You do a lot of soul searching and you think back at the comments (of encouragement) from my students at school, my family and all the people I’ve met; to think how much this lake means to everyone. That goes through your head. There was times it definitely would’ve been nice to stop, but we didn’t,” Morris said.

The last 10 miles were the hardest Morris said. When they approached the Canadian marine sanctuary they had to be guided into a channel before they landed due to the rocky nature of the coastline.

“When I saw my dad we just lost it. When you go through something like that you’re so close to everyone involved. When you finish you are on top of Everest. It’s the highest of all high feelings,” Morris said.

As they crossed he said they saw a shipwreck and they crossed the islands and found a sense of what they’re trying to protect.

Moe said their efforts help point out the responsibilities to the protection of the Great Lakes and sanctuary.

Jordan Spence can be reached via email at jspence@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5687.