By JESSE GAULT
On Friday Aug. 19, Mike Shoreman will leave Youngstown, New York on the south side of Lake Ontario and make his way across the lake via paddleboard to the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto.
Aiming to complete the crossing by the next day, Shoreman will have then have reached his goal of paddleboarding across all five of the Great Lakes this summer.
Already, he has crossed Lake Erie on May 29, Lake Huron on June 13, Lake Superior on July 5, and Lake Michigan on July 27.
Beach residents may remember Shoreman’s arrival at Kew Beach in late August of last year as he made his first attempt to cross Lake Ontario paddleboard. Due to extreme weather that crossing could not be completed. At the time, he told Beach Metro Community News the dream was on hold, and he came back even bigger this summer with the goal of crossing all five Great Lakes in one summer.
One of Shoreman’s motivations in taking on the lake crossings is to show that individuals with disabilities can achieve the most ambitious of goals. He is also raising funds for jack.org, a nonprofit which advocates for mental health awareness and treatment across Canada. https://jack.org/Home
“jack.org puts mental health programs for young Canadians in schools, in high schools, colleges, and universities,” said Shoreman.
The goal is to fundraise $100,000 dollars for the organization and its cause. With the Lake Ontario crossing still to come, $61,002.22 has been raised so far.
Shoreman said crossing such large bodies of water by paddleboard presents a number of challenges.
“Being on the water for such a long time and dealing with the elements, there’s exhaustion, there’s heat, there’s nutrition. I’m being fed a special diet,” he said.
On his most recent crossing of Lake Michigan, which took 27 hours, he said his stomach was giving him trouble as tried to keep his nutrition and energy levels up.
“There was a big fear that I would start vomiting because I was gagging. Every 30 minutes I’m fed. I’m passed a shake. And every 30 minutes I was gagging and they were worried that I would start being sick. And when you start vomiting in a marathon, you’re done.”
Shoreman said that even though a support team is also close by him, it can feel lonely being out in the middle of such large lakes – especially at night.
“There are moments in it that people don’t see. And that’s the frustration and the fight. And when you feel that your body is breaking down and you’ve got nothing left in the gas tank and you’re just holding on, to see the sun come up is a huge relief when you’ve been going for the last eight hours in the pitch dark.”
Shoreman lives with the impacts of Ramsay Hunt syndrome and has faced mental health complications. He has put himself through treatment to get his mind to a place where he can move forward in life, he said.
“I had made it out to be much scarier than it actually was. What it did was it put me on the path to getting services that I needed. It set me up with a counsellor,” said Shoreman. “I was put on anxiety medication. And I didn’t feel like I didn’t have anything to live for.”
Ramsay Hunt syndrome involves a virus infecting a nerve within an individual’s head. For Shoreman, this led to paralysis on the right hand side of the face and caused challenges related to moving around, seeing, talking, tasting, and hearing.
Shoreman had to relearn paddleboarding after his diagnosis.
“So being on the water and the thought of falling was terrifying,” he said.
Getting back on the paddleboard and the water required the support, figuratively and literally, of many friends.
Shoreman said he was “latching onto anybody who I trusted” to be on the water with.
“People just said, yeah I want to come out with you. And I said, you know, getting together for three or five minutes might not be worth your while, and they said, yeah it would be. And so we did that. And then three or five minutes turned into seven minutes then it turned into 10 minutes and then just gradually, slowly building up until I felt confident enough to stand up. And then I felt confident to not need somebody next to me all the time.”
Shoreman said he feels passionately about raising funds for jack.org and the important work it does.
“I feel very passionately and very strongly that I don’t want anyone, especially kids, because young people don’t have the same coping mechanisms or tools that adults have. And I don’t want kids to ever feel the way that I felt and go to where I nearly went because I nearly didn’t come back from that.”
He said he especially appreciates the support he receives from people inspired by his lake crossings and fundraising efforts for jack.org
“I’ve received lots of letters and art and notes from people. It’s very touching, very moving. I’m in constant contact with jack.org, almost every day. They’re a big part of this and I’m looking forward to seeing them at the landing in Toronto. And I’m very excited.”
To learn more about Shoreman’s Lake Ontario paddleboard crossing on Aug. 19, or to make a donation, please go to https://jack.akaraisin.com/ui/canadasgreatlakecrossing