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 #LakeErieChallenge on August 24th, 2019.

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 had to reschedule 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. 

Going back to Team Swim, Daniel Zin successfully completed a challenging 26.5 km swim in Lake Erie on Saturday, September 7th.

The weather once again threatened to thwart Daniel’s second swim attempt. With the forecast in mind, Team Swim adjusted their plans. Instead of an exposed crossing from the tip of Long Point to Port Dover, they chose a slightly more sheltered route, starting at Pottahawk Island. Daniel swam across to Turkey Point, and then over to Port Dover. They also adjusted the swim’s timing, hoping to take advantage of calmer winds forecast overnight.

Daniel began the swim just after midnight, at 12:41 am. He completed it 10 hours later, arriving to welcoming crowds on the beach at Port Dover at 10:41 am. The conditions were better during that window, but swimming through the night presented its own challenges. Says Daniel, “I struggled to find rhythm and just felt tired, cold and drained from the beginning. Swimming in the dark meant I couldn’t see the waves coming in at me, and so when I went to breathe, I would inadvertently take in water.”

We couldn’t be prouder of the athletes, the support and the community! Together we raised awareness about Lake Erie's environment, and raised funds to help protect it.

Challenge Day might be over, but our journey is not.

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.

More photos of the event can be found here.