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.
But 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!
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.”
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!
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….
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!
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.
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!