Update: The guys made it across Lake Huron! 

Kwin Morris, Joe Lorenz and Jeff Guy—founders of the Traverse City nonprofit Stand Up for Great Lakes—will attempt to cross Lake Huron, from Michigan to Canada, by standup paddleboard to raise money for Alpena’s Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the only freshwater national sanctuary in the world.

Crossing nearly 90 miles of open water is no small task. Guy, Lorenz and Morris are experienced paddleboarders and have been engaged in water-based activities for years. They are all physically fit and have been training and preparing for the crossing all winter. For safety, they will not be alone on the lake; the group will be wearing proper gear such as dry suits, leashes and PFDs, and will have a support boat shadowing them at all times.

Lake Huron is crossed by sail countless times each year. But so far, no SUPs have attempted. The team’s departure window is June 13–June 22, as soon as there is calm weather.

We chatted with Kwin Morris (Q&A below) on June 13 and will catch up with the guys after the crossing.

[Last year, Stand Up for Great Lakes crossed Lake Michigan by paddleboard, here’s the story.]

How did paddling the Great Lakes become your way of standing up for and raising money for our natural water supply?

It all started as an adventure of a lifetime. A challenge to cross Lake Michigan. Anyone who has stood on the shores has had to wonder about trying it. My buddy Jeff Guy and I started really considering it after a paddle trip. Three winters ago we had this super cold vortex winter. We ice skated on the middle of West Bay and met at Espresso Bay to talk about the paddle. That is when we decided to not only attempt the paddle but also donate any money we could raise for a charity that helps protect the lakes. We chose The Alliance for the Great Lakes and came up with the name, Stand Up for Great Lakes.

At the time, even living around the lakes our whole lives, we didn’t know how difficult the planning and paddle would be. After the trip, we saw how much attention we brought to the lakes, to people not only in Michigan but all over the U.S. We saw that people did not realize how vast, powerful and amazing these bodies of water are. So by doing something out of the ordinary, by putting a tremendous toll on our body and doing, not just talking, we realized we could have a huge impact on the way people see our lakes and help protect it for future generations. After the paddle, our non-profit was born. We teach SUP and water safety classes to elementary students, organize water and beach clean-ups and participate in expeditions. Our main goal would be to someday award scholarships and grants to our youth who show a potential and passion to protect and advocate for our Great Lakes.
Stand Up for Great Lakes

Winter training

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced while crossing Lake Michigan?
Although we had some amazing times out on the lake, Northern Lights, amazing stars and sunsets/sunrises, we faced a lot of adversity as well. We had over 40 miles of 37-degree water and an air temp of 39. That was the hardest part for most of us on the trip. Staying warm. Personally, my feet were wet and cold for over 24 hours and at one point close to hypothermic. I have edited the gear I will be using on this next crossing.

We also had some wind issues. The first 5–6 miles we had a tail wind, so it was pushing us in the correct direction. We were flying, averaging over 6 mph. The rest of the trip we never saw that again. We paddled on the left side 90 percent of the time and at the end fought 4–6-foot waves for 10 miles. Being exhausted, a few members of our team fell in!

Are you expecting Lake Huron to be similar to Lake Michigan?

Each Great Lake brings its own challenges and deserves to be respected. This paddle will be 30 miles longer—from 60 miles to 90 miles.We are lucky enough to be traveling from the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the only freshwater sanctuary in the world that has hundreds of shipwrecks, to the Fathom Five National Marine Park in Ontario, Canada. So paddling through ” shipwreck valley” is a whole different ball game. The end terrain will be different—huge cliffs and a lot of wilderness, and the winds will be totally different. So we are approaching and crossing this lake way differently than the first. We have updated our gear and instead of picking one certain point to end, we are picking an area.

The guys just finishing their Lake Michigan crossing.

What organization are you donating to?

For this crossing, we are donating money to the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. After the last crossing, we were contacted by them and asked if we were interested in paddling. None of us had been over there or paddled in the area. When we went, we were blown away. The crystal clear water, the amazing shipwrecks and islands. It was a paddler’s dream. Our biggest goal is to show by video and pictures a non-destructive way to visit this magical place.

What would you like people to take from your paddling?

We are guys from Michigan, with full-time jobs, standing up to protect something we are passionate about. Each day we hear and see an ever-growing list of threats happening in and around our lakes. We don’t want to just talk about it, we want to take action. By crossing these lakes, money goes to causes that align with our thinking. I for one want my kids and grandkids and all future generations to be able to enjoy these clean, amazing natural wonders. We want the world to see these Great Lakes as a special place like we do and feel the connection that so many of us share. We want people to think about the garbage, the invasive species, the aging pipelines, the agricultural runoff, the algae blooms, the potential of having water being pumped away. We want people to see the fishing, paddling, lighthouses, the beach fires, the Petoskey stones, sunsets, sailing, the thunderstorms, the surfing and the memories of the past. We want people to feel our passion and to walk away with the message that we love our lakes, and they’re worth standing up for.

More Preservation Efforts: 

Photo(s) by Stand Up for Great Lakes