Grueling Conditions for the 2019 Lake Erie Challenge

While high winds made for a taxing 30 km journey on Lake Erie, a community mobilized on shore to show their love for this Great Lake. 

Lake Erie’s always been known to change on a dime, with the flat calm of the shallows often camouflaging the untamed swells of the deep. While the light breeze that graced Port Dover’s shore served as sweet relief from the late August sun, high winds and 6-foot waves out on the water spelled trouble for the 4 athletes taking on the 30 km swim/paddle as part of the 2019 #LakeErieChallenge.

Despite the many years of collective experience among them in these waters, Lake Erie was toying with them: Team Swim coach Josh Reid described it as “washing-machine conditions out there." This turbulent surf signaled the end of the challenge for swimmer Daniel Zin and the rest of Team Swim, who have rescheduled the swim from Long Point to Port Dover for September 7th. 

With one team down, Team SUP (Tyler Backus, Jonah Logan, and Josh Austin) fought their way from Long Point to Port Dover in just shy of 7.5 hours. The 30 km distance, which they had originally anticipated would take them 3 to 5 hours, took much longer for these experienced paddle boarders. “This was one of the hardest paddles both physically and mentally for any of us because of the conditions,” says Backus. “It was a grind but quite the experience.”

On-shore, we eagerly awaited updates from Team SUP at our Challenge Day beach celebrations with our fantastic partners: Greatful Living Apparel, Sweet B’s Cakes, Cleaning Up Norfolk, Great Art for the Great Lakes, Twisted Fish Yoga Studio, and the Long Point World Biosphere Reserve. With the musical stylings of The Farewell Stanleys providing the soundtrack to our afternoon, visitors to Port Dover’s beautiful beach had the chance to participate in art workshops and shop its premium sustainable fashions.

The beach clean-up organized by Cleaning Up Norfolk had successful returns. Trash was collected and deposited into a wire sturgeon sculpture—an emotive visual of our waste’s impact on the Great Lakes.

After cheering on our athletes for their exciting finish around 3:30pm, we celebrated with cake and cupcakes provided by the wonderfully talented Brittany of Sweet B's Cakes. 

Challenge Day might be over, but our journey is not, with Dan's rescheduled swim coming up on Sept 7th. He and Team Swim still need all of your support to meet their goals, including raising $6000 for Lake Erie.

Water is a fearsome entity. It is both powerful and soft to the touch, turbulent and calm. It can move mountains, propel 100,000 tonne ships, and is home to some of the strangest creatures on Earth. But despite its ferocity, it remains vulnerable. Without our respect, it suffers, and so do the billions of people and organisms that rely on it.

The #LakeErieChallenge is a response to Erie’s cry for help. Without showing that we care or realizing the impact that our individual and collective actions (and the actions of our governments) have on its health, it cannot survive. Plastic pollution, sewage spills, and toxic algae blooms (click here to demand government action to address Erie’s toxic algae problem) are destroying our lake, and if no one else will take action, we sure will.

Want to get involved? Become a member of the Lake Erie Guardians, our network of concerned citizens, or support our efforts by donating to this great cause.

All photos taken by Jade Prévost-Manuel on August 24, 2019. More photos of the event can be found here.