April 22, 2017.
A sunny, 40 degree day in Northern Michigan. The water of the Mackinaw Straights extremely calm, which as many of you may not know is VERY rare. Absolutely perfect conditions for a paddle board adventure.
Gordie Lafontaine and Kadin Patterson, two 8th graders at Cherry Land Middle School, have both grown up in the Northern Michigan area and share a love for the Great Lakes. So they asked Kwin Morris (my fiancé and their 8th grade science teacher) if they could join up with Stand Up for Great Lakes for their 8th grade community Project.
Stand Up For Great Lakes
For those of who don’t know, Stand Up for Great Lakes is a non-profit organization, started by my Fiancé, and four other native Northern Michigan friends, whose main goal is to raise awareness and protect the Great Lakes. Two years ago the five guys successfully Stand Up Paddle Boarded across Lake Michigan (starting in Algoma, WI and ending in Frankfort, MI). This was a 60 mile paddle that took them 24 hours to complete. Since then they have organized beach clean-ups, went to local elementary schools to teach water safety, and many other SUP demo days for the public. Another goal of the organization is to reach out to the younger generation so they too can become more involved in preserving the Great Lakes.
Mackinaw Straights Paddle
Gordie and Kadin have been working alongside their teacher planning something that they felt could really raise awareness to preserving the Great Lakes. They came up with the idea to paddle across the Mackinaw Straights. The two students decided this location because they wanted to educate and bring awareness to a huge Political/Public issue going on, Line 5. Gordie and Kadin went around to local town meetings, wrote to newspapers and did TV interviews educating the public. They trained throughout the winter paddle boarding to practice for the cold and windy conditions, and have been lifting weights before school with Kwin every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
April 22, 2017..Earth Day, the day of the official paddle. They took off from St. Ignace and ended in Mackinaw City, MI. For safety measures they had two safety boats, wore dry suites, had leashes connected to their boards and each wore PFD’s. A five mile paddle may not seem long, but the conditions that the straights provides make for a very difficult journey: 30 degree waters, currents exceeding Niagara Falls, and choppy waters caused by the westerly winds passing though. With all the training and preparation the paddlers did the five mile journey only took them 1 1/2 hours.
At the end of the day the Kadin and Gordie ended up raising over $4000 for the Stand Up for Great Lakes foundation. Not only this, but they earned a lifetime of experience in public speaking and learning how to organize public events.
Stand Up for Great Lakes paddlers Kwin Morris, Jeff Guy, and Joe Lorenz next adventure is to paddle across Lake Huron. They are going to be starting at the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, which is the only fresh water sanctuary in the world, and ending in Canada. This is going to be about a 90 mile feat! To follow along their journey and help protect the Great Lakes check out their website!