The Big Lake They Call ‘Gitche Gumee’

“The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down. Of the big lake they called ‘gitche gumee.’ The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead. When the skies of November turn gloomy.” – The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald, by Gordon Lightfoot

Good ‘old Lake Superior, the grandest of all the Great Lakes! The largest, deepest, coldest, and most unpredictable Great Lake of them all! Notorious for it’s pop-up storms and the ever popular shipwreck ‘The Edmund Fitzgerald.’

Knowing all of this..who is their right minds would want to stand up paddle board across this lake?

Lake Superior Crossing

July 10, 208 Kwin Morris, Jeff Guy and Joe Lorenz set out on the paddle of a lifetime! These guys have already successfully paddled across Lake Michigan (2015) and Lake Huron (2017). The paddle started in Wawa, Ontario, Canada at the Lake Superior Provincial Park. The significance of starting here is the century old Native American pictographs along the rocky costal line. One of the pictographs pictured below is of Misshepezhieu, the spirit of the water. Misshepezhieu could work for or against humans – he could calm the waters, or he could bring wind and storms by thrashing his tail.

Like the other two paddles, Lake Superior started out with great paddling conditions: flat, little wind and no waves. The only tricky condition was going against a thick cloud of fog. Although challenging, it sure gave for cool pictures!

The first stop on the paddle was going to be the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald-33 miles out from the Canadian shoreline. I’m sure most of you know or have heard about this famous wreck that occurred November 10,1975 (if not reference the song by Gordon Lightfoot ‘The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald’ it’s a quick song about it!) This wreck site is condidered a grave site for the 29 sailors whom lost their lives that night; and it is now against the law to boat, paddle,or dive over!

After getting permission from the family members, as well as the Canadian government the paddlers and two safety boats were granted access to pass over. At about 9pm on July 10,2018 Kwin, Jeff and Joe along with other safety boat crew members had a memorial to honor the great ship and crewsman. A wreath (donated by Co-Ed Flowers & Gifts) of 29 carnations +1 carnation for all other sailors lost at sea was placed overtop the wreck. They followed this with 3 mintes of silence. An emotional and tear filled event for everyone.

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After an uneventful and calm night of paddling, the guys made landfall around 6am the following morning! Greeted with a beautiful sunrise, calm waters, and family and friends on shore. They ended at the Lighthouse on the end of Whitefish Point, Michigan-also where the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum is located.

Kwin, Jeff and Joe may have been exhausted both physically and emotionally, but they beat the odds and crossed Lake Superior! 60 miles in 22 hours…pretty impressive!

The picture below is of kwin holding a log that he picked up 3 miles away from the Canadian coastline. The significance of it, is that even in the most remote area of Lake Superior there is wood and pieces of plastic floating around! WHERE IS THIS PLASTIC COMING FROM?! A way to help reduce plastic and other garbage from getting into the Great Lakes is to recycle more! Can we all make a pledge to not only clean up after ourselves…but if you see garbage just laying around pick it up yourself too!

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Paddlers and the Boat Safety Crew
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Kwin, Jeff and Mark Goethel- helped Corey Adkins with photography & videography of the crossing!
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Celebrating a huge accomplishment,while live on 9&10 News

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Jeff & Mel at finish

My Thoughts on the Crossing

As you can tell by reading this, Lake Superior treated the guys well!  THANK YOU MISSHEPEZHIUE!

Looking back it is almost too good to be true! I remember at every update that the safety boats would give us (which was about every 2 hours) thinking to myself “there has got to be something that will happen….” especially knowing whole heartily that it’s Lake Superior, and it’s track record!

This crossing has been one of my favorites.

  1. Lake Superior Provincial Park in Wawa, Ontario, Canada was awesome! We did some hiking to the pictographs and the views were spectacular. Kwin and I will definitely be going back.
  2. While waiting in Whitefish, Michigan the “On-Land” crew members went to Tahquamenon Falls. We also rented a house on Lake Superior, which as you can guess was pretty awesome too!
  3. Around the same time the guys were having their memorial for the Edmund Fitzgerald we also did a little something to honor the ship. A toast around our lakeside bonfire!
  4. The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point is amazing! It has so much history in it, including the actual Edmund Fitzgerald bell recovered from the ship in 1995 (The last time that anyone was able to dive or cross over the shipwreck before it became illegal.)
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Mel, Jeff, Kwin & Me

What’s Next?

Corey Adkins will be making another documentary about this crossing! It will be aired on 9&10 News this Thanksgiving!

He is also working on a mini-series that will be aired sometime in September…more to follow on that, so make sure to follow our Facebook page for updates.

As for the next Lake Crossing…planning has just begun! With a tentative  date of June 2019 crossing Lake Erie!

I hope you enjoyed, and if you haven’t yet it isn’t too late to donate! Head over to our website HERE and make a donation!

Lake Michigan-The First Adventures

Stand Up For Great Lakes-an organization started by a group of friends in Traverse City, MI whose goal to raise awareness for the Great Lakes. 

The summer of 2014 was when it all began. Kwin Morris, Jeff Guy, Joe Lorenz, J Mueller and Nick Darga were going to attempt to cross Lake Michigan by paddle boards. They had been planning for almost a year now and were ready to make the feat. Unfortunately, their weather window in late August didn’t give them a good window to make the crossing so it was postponed until next summer.

Little did the guys know…but this was a blessing in disguise. The paddlers were able to get a big sponsor through ‘Ford Motor Company’ as well as do more research on what clothing, and safety measure they needed!

June 2015

June 22, 2015: the five paddlers+ two safety boats+ parametics+ Captain-Ryan Matuzak all traveled to Algmoa, WI where they would be starting their journey the next morning.

June 23, 2015: The paddlers began their journey across Lake Michigan starting in Algoma, WI around 1100. At the beginning of the  paddle they had a steady West wind, where they were averaging 4mph travel time! THEY WERE CRUSING…but not for long! Around 1800 the winds changed to coming from the South, and the waves increased in size. These conditions persisted until the guys made landfall the following morning; meaning they paddled on their left side for 16+ hours!

 

June 24, 2015: After 24 grueling hours of paddling: battling the strong south wind and 2-3ft waves, the paddlers finally made it to the Frankfort, MI beach! There they were greeted by family members, friends, coffee from ‘Espresso Bay‘ and growlers from ‘Storm Cloud Brewery.’

Stand Up For Great Lakes team members had a mission to cross Lake Michigan for two reasons:

  1. To raise money for protection of the great lakes: A ‘Go Fund-Me’ page was set up to raise money for ‘Alliance For The Great Lakes’ a non-profit organization that works to preserve and protect the great lakes. The team was able to raise $10,000!
  2. To be able to say they crossed a Great Lakes by paddle board.

I vaguely remember Kwin telling me after the crossing “Yep, I’ll never do that again!” The physical and emotional toll that it took on him was something he didn’t expect at all! He, like most people, thought that it would be a breeze…BOY WAS HE WRONG.

After a couple days of recovery and many interviews with local and state radio shows, news stations, etc. Kwin, Jeff, Joe, J and Nick all saw the impact they made and realized they needed to do more. PADDLE ALL THE GREAT LAKES!