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!

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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!

Stuck on Land…My Perspective of the Lake Huron Crossing

As many of you know, Kwin and the rest of the Stand Up For Great Lakes crew successful crossed Lake Huron last month. Paddling a grueling 28hours straight in choppy and un-predictable Great Lake water; and overcoming physical, mental and emotional fatigue are only some of the barriers that the paddlers faced. I cannot even begin to imagine what was running through the guys heads at 3AM, or when the sun rises and their is nothing but water in sight.

IMG_2393But I do know one thing, the passion that Kwin, Jeff and Joe all have for the Great Lakes is so great, that it would take something huge for them to not to complete their goal.

Many people have asked what I go through before, during and after the paddle and the first word that comes to my mind it STRESSED!

Before the Paddle, the Planning Stages

There is a lot of behind the scenes work that goes into preparing for such a big journey. Making sure that social media is up-to-date on everything, contacting sponsor companies, lining up safety boats, finding a paramedic, training, and so much more. I help by making sure that everything is organized, show support during times of frustration (being turned down by companies, or struggling to find something you need), and continuing to promote the organization in anyway that I can.

Finally, the paddle window was open and our house was full of anxiety and a few little breakdowns. First, I could not decide whether or not to drive over to Canada with Kwin’s parents (which was a 50/50 shot of seeing them land) or stay in Alpena for when they returned; Ultimately staying in Alpena won the debate. Second, Kwin was pacing around the house just waiting for the weather to have a clear two day window. And lastly, I was getting frustrated because Kwin wanted to rest and make sure he was ready for the big paddle…which meant he didn’t want to do anything fun with me!

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During the Paddle 

8AM on Monday June 19 to 12PM Tuesday June 20 was the longest twenty-eight hours of my life.The emotions running through my body as the guys left the Alpena shoreline were: anxiety, nervousness, tearing up, and just ready for the paddle to be done with. I remember not leaving the shoreline until the paddlers were no longer visible, then looking to Kwin’s mom and saying “Now the waiting game begins.”IMG_2343.JPG

For this lake crossing, I was put in charge of updating all social media outlets and family/friends of the paddlers(definitely gave me more of a sense of ease knowing what was going on.) This meant that every hour one of the safety boats would call me using a satellite phone to give a progress update on how all the paddlers were doing, average MPH, and what the water forecast was like. I got MAYBE one hour of sleep that night (between the hourly calls and my nerves getting to the best of me).  Luckily,  Rose (Joe’s girlfriend) and Mel (Jeff’s Fiancé) were there to talk to the entire paddle, because they were experiencing the same emotions!

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Around 10AM I received my first text from Kwin in almost 24 hours. My heart was racing and the biggest smile became painted across my face. Until I opened it….

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Seeing Kwin at his lowest, saying that he has never been so tired, his hands were prunes, and that he was starting to struggle was heartbreaking. I felt worthless for not being able to help him at such a hard time. All I could say to him was that he is amazing and has so many people cheering him on right now, keep him motivated, and reassure him that he WILL FINISH!

At 11:45AM when Stephanie, who was on the safety boat representing the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, called and said they were about to make landfall I instantly broke into tears…THEY DID IT! The emotions running through my body were indescribable: happy they did it, sad I wasn’t over in Canada, relieved it is finally over, excited to hear all the great stories, and just wanting to give Kwin a big hug and Kiss!

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The Aftermath of the Paddle

Sleep and recovering was the main priority! Then, the next day, a swarm of tasks popped up: multiple interview, phone calls, thank you cards, social media stuff, merchandise orders, etc. Like the planning phase, my role is to support and help in anyway possible.

Also on the radar in the next couple weeks was the Stand Up For Great Lakes big annual event, the Torch Lake Clean up over the 4th of July weekend. There was still some final touches that needed to be done before the event, and having just finished the lake crossing the guys were able to spread the word pretty quick! The second annual clean up was yet again an extremely successful event, collecting almost 50- 50gallon bags of trash and cans! All proceeds for the cans collected were donated to the Torch Lake Protection Alliance.

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Whats Next? 

Of course, everyone is already asking the notorious question..”What’s next?” Stand Up for Great Lakes has slowly started planning their next crossing already for next July and plan on conquering Lake Superior! No plan of where their course is going to be yet, but stay tuned to their website and Facebook page for updates!