Three paddleboarders—Kwin Morris, Jeff Guy and Joe Lorenz—landed on the shores of Catawba Island, Ohio, braving almost 20 hours of headwinds to finish their 24-hour, 70-mile journey across Lake Erie.

The trio traversed international waters and passed by 800+ foot freighters and other boat traffic, all in an effort to raise awareness of Great Lakes environmental issues through their project, Stand Up for Great Lakes. They begin their adventure at Belle Isle State Park, home of the Dossin Great Lakes Museum, and ended at Catawba State Park in Ohio not far from Sandusky.

The crossing started off smoothly, but the trio soon encountered straight headwinds for the rest of the paddle. Unforecasted 10-knot winds cropped up, requiring the men to paddle twice as hard. “Sometimes we paddled as hard as we could and were actually going backward,” Joe Lorenz says. “Then at times during our rests, the wind blew us back, losing the ground we had already covered.”

Each paddleboarder carried all of his supplies on his own paddleboard: food, extra clothes and straws that filter drinking water from the lake. To give their families peace of mind, they took precautions, such as having two safety boats follow them with an emergency medical technician onboard one. They also brought Emmy Award-Winning Photojournalist Corey Adkins with them to capture the event.

With Stand Up for Great Lakes, the guys have now successfully paddled across four of the five Great Lakes. 

On the Lake Michigan crossing, they raised $10,000 for the Great Lakes Alliance. In June 2017, they crossed Lake Huron and raised $7,000 for Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Their 90-mile paddle journey took more than 28 hours to complete. Last summer they paddled across Lake Superior in 21 hours. Their 60-mile trip began at Sinclair Cove, Ontario, and ended at Whitefish Point, Michigan, and raised $15,000 for the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. 

The men researched Lake Erie to decide where to donate the money they raised. They spoke with Duane Gossiaux, a biologist at Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, who specializes in studying Lake Erie’s harmful algal blooms (HABs), and he directed them to the Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research.

“CIGLR is a non-profit housed in the University of Michigan. They are doing spectacular work with algal bloom research and their efforts to safeguard the Great Lakes ecosystem. They are experts in Great Lakes issues, and we were thrilled to have them on board our team,” Lorenz says. 

Algal blooms (also called algae blooms) usually caused by runoff pollution, can impact both marine and human health and are an annual threat to more than 11 million people through drinking water, recreational boating, fishing and swimming. The Stand Up for Great Lakes team raised $15,000 for CIGLR, surpassing the original goal of $10,000.

“Our overall goal is to help keep the Great Lakes awesome,” says Jeff Guy. “Our hope is that people will join us in donating to this great cause.”

Next up, the guys will tackle Lake Ontario. 

For more information or to make a donation, visit Watch the award-winning documentary about their Lake Superior Crossing here

Photo(s) by Stand Up for Great Lakes