Lake Erie Challenge 2021

On Saturday, August 28th, the fourth annual Lake Erie Challenge hosted by the Canadian Freshwater Alliance put the athletes’ skills to the test!

Teams SUP, Caldwell and Wingfoil covered over 100km of Lake Erie's open water to raise awareness and funds to protect this precious freshwater ecosystem.

The lake’s conditions didn’t make it easy for them. The wind and waves tested Team SUP as they travelled 25 kilometres from Cedar Beach in Kingsville to the Pelee Wings Store in Leamington.

Team SUP takes to the water.

“This is why we call it the Lake Erie Challenge and not the Lake Erie walk in the park!” Brad Petrus from Team SUP aptly commented after his paddle.

Team SUP: Brad Petrus, Derik Hyatt and Sara Chojnicki.

In a large freighter canoe, members of Caldwell First Nation joined Team SUP for the final 5 kilometres of their journey, from Leamington Marina to the Pelee Wings Store. Despite getting drenched from the waves, Team Caldwell held up well under the windy and wavy conditions.

Team Caldwell prepares to set off via freighter canoe.

Tim Blanchard of Team Wingfoil travelled seamlessly to Pelee Island in an hour and a half but the return trip was a different story. Facing tough winds, Blanchard had to change his approach and more than double the time of his journey back to Leamington.

Tim of Team Wingfoil makes his way to Pelee Island.

"What was supposed to be a 25-kilometre return ended up being 45 kilometres as a result," explained the exhausted Blanchard after he once again reaching dry land.

Tim (third from left) enjoying a brief stopover on Pelee Island.

Thankfully, during his mid-point break on Pelee Island, Tim was welcomed with delicious tacos from the Taco Shack, as a part of a fun and free community celebration being put in in celebration of the Challenge. Community members from all over the island join the festivities, with Peele Eco Works hosting a beach cleanup along Lake Erie’s shoreline, Peele Art Works leading a community craft inspiring supporters to express their love for Lake Erie and Peele Winery discussing sustainable winemaking. 

Community members enjoy rock painting on Pelee Island as a part of their community celebration.

While the teams were in the water, local Lake Erie Guardians and Water Rangers joined together on Cedar Beach to cheer on the athletes as well as demonstrate techniques for water testing.

The Lake Erie Guardians and Water Rangers enjoying the views and testing Lake Erie's waters with curious passers-by.

In the end, weather, wind and waves did not deter the athletes and each team was able to reach the finish line -- albeit wet, sorer and more tired than when they started!

Their efforts didn't go unnoticed either. Although they initially hoped to raise $7,500 for Lake Erie, that goal was quickly surpassed, and soon the athletes saw the dial move all the way to $10,000.

Team SUP and Team Wingfoil enjoy the news of their fundraising success.

“The athletes put in a tremendous amount of effort to accomplish what they did today, and we love seeing their accomplishments being celebrating in this way,” said Raj Gill, Great Lakes Program Director at the Freshwater Alliance. "We couldn't do this without them."

All proceeds raised during the Lake Erie Challenge will go towards combating some of the most serious issues that plague Lake Erie, including toxic algal blooms.

While algae levels were low this year, we know that was by luck and not design,” said Raj. “We had a very dry spring, which reduced the nutrient runoff into Lake Erie. It's not because of any clear reduction in human-driven pollution.”

"But that's the type of reduction we need," added Melissa Bramham, National Director of the Canadian Freshwater Alliance. "In 2018, the Ontario and Canadian governments released a plan with 120 actions to reduce phosphorus loads in Lake Erie, which in turn would reduce the algae blooms that threaten both human and animal life. The work plan explaining how they will implement those 120 actions was supposed to be shared by February 2019. It's now more than two years overdue. We don’t even know if we’ve met our interim goal of a 20% reduction by 2020."

Without tracking and reporting, it’s unclear if the government’s commitments to improve Lake Erie are being adequately implemented. That's why we're calling for an updated timeline and reporting, and asking community members to add their voice to our call to Premier Doug Ford asking for an updated timeline. Learn more at