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Paddling Across Lake Michigan

Can Lake Michigan be crossed by five men on standup paddle boards? These five dudes hope to be the first. Photo by John S. Gessner

Five guys, 60 miles of open water, one goal

Lake Michigan is crossed by sail countless times each year. It has been crossed by a handful of well-equipped kayakers over the years. But so far, very few standup paddleboarders have attempted.

By the time you read this, however, Andrew Pritchard, Kwin Morris, Jeff Guy, Joe Lorenz, and J. Mueller may be sitting at Stormcloud Brewery, tipping back a round of well-deserved pints. Or they may be still en route, traversing 60 miles across Lake Michigan from Wisconsin to Frankfort beach on standup paddleboards.

The goal of the journey is to raise $10,000 for the Chicago-based nonprofit Alliance for the Great Lakes, which has preserved and protected the “freshwater seas” since 1970.

For these five paddleboarders, who have been training since last December, their goal has been to find a near-perfect window of calm weather before Labor Day to cross 60 miles of open water. Pritchard, Morris, Guy, Lorenz, and Mueller are all physically fit, experienced paddleboarders. For safety, they will not be alone on the lake; the group will have a support boat shadowing them at all times.

“It’s the challenge of a lifetime,” says Pritchard, digital marketing manager for Cherry Republic in Glen Arbor. “It’s also a great opportunity to raise some money for these lakes that sustain our way of life and to draw attention to the significant issues affecting them.”

Stand Up For Great Lakes, as the guys are calling their journey, features a bold and dramatic athletic event, but its real purpose is to help Alliance for the Great Lakes to raise awareness about the threats facing the largest freshwater source in the world. The lakes are under threat, writes Pritchard. Their nemeses include oil pipelines of questionable integrity, invasive species, sewage leakage, pharmaceutical pollution, agricultural runoff, and those people who think it’s okay to throw beer cans and cigarette butts wherever they please.

“We’re surfers, paddlers, kayakers, fisherman, and sailors,” Morris says. “We love our lakes — the great ones and the small ones — and the opportunity to make such a significant journey across one of them is amazing!”

Alliance for the Great Lakes works with scientists, policymakers, businesses, community groups, and everyday citizens to protect and restore the world’s largest freshwater resource. More than 80 percent of the organization’s funds go towards programs that safeguard the lakes. For more information, visit GreatLakes.org. You can follow the “Great Paddle” by visiting StandUpforGreatLakes.com. They’ll provide updates along the way on their Facebook page, Facebook.com/StandUpforGreatLakes, provided that they pick up a cellular phone signal along the way.

Featured photo: Can Lake Michigan be crossed by five men on standup paddle boards? These five dudes hope to
be the first. Photo by John S. Gessner.

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