Disabled athlete crosses Lake Michigan on a paddleboard in search of traversing all the Great Lakes: "It's really something to witness"

A small dot on the horizon grew larger as a group of 10 surfers prepared to join him. Some of them whistled and booed and shouted words of encouragement, waving their oars in the air.

And so Michael Shoreman washed ashore, equipped with a bright blue paddle and board.

At approximately 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, Shoreman, 39, touched down on North Avenue Beach after a 27-hour paddleboarding trip across Lake Michigan that began at 5:40 a.m. Tuesday, according to his team, Shoreman heads to being the first athlete with a disability to cross the Great Lakes.

She wiped away tears when her feet hit the sand. She had exceeded her expectations by traveling the 44.1 miles between Union Pier, Michigan, and Chicago in 30 hours.

“This is the emotional part,” said Shoreman’s manager, Liana Neumann. She quickened her pace to go give the paddleboarder a hug.

Shoreman has had many of these emotional moments over the summer. On July 5, she crossed Lake Superior in eight hours, after crossing Lake Huron in 28 hours on June 13 and Lake Erie in seven hours on May 19.

“I feel very tired, but I am very happy to be here,” Shoreman told the Tribune. “Chicago is one of my favorite cities in the world; It’s my favorite American city. And to be able to get here, in front of this beautiful skyline and all these amazing paddleboarders, it’s just amazing.”

In 2018, Shoreman suddenly developed Ramsay Hunt syndrome, a variant of shingles and a neurological condition. The disease attacked her ear, paralyzing and collapsing the right side of her face and causing problems with mobility, vision, speech, taste and hearing. She also has vertigo, which makes paddleboarding particularly difficult.

“So I went from being very athletic to not being able to walk, and I spent a year learning how to retrain my brain to walk properly,” Shoreman said. “And the doctors said I would never row again. And I had a mental health breakdown.

“And on the flip side of learning to walk and getting back on the paddle board, I just wanted to work with mental health organizations that support youth and youth and help support them, so this is to raise money to put on health programs mind in schools. for young people.”

Shoreman has been involved with many mental health advocacy organizations, including Kenneth Cole’s Mental Health Coalition, The Trevor Project and Tyler Clemente Foundation, and the Canadian Youth Mental Health Organization. jack.org.

Neumann has been friends with Shoreman for about seven years, ever since he took a class with him on the Toronto waterfront, where he was a paddleboard instructor.

“I’ve been an undertaker, a funeral director, for 22 years, so I’m out of PTSD. I’ve been away for two years,” he said. “And he’s doing this for mental health, so he’s dear to my heart.”

During the crossings, Shoreman has cramps, sits down, stands up, laughs, cries. But one thing he can’t do is stop paddling for too long, otherwise the board will slide through the water.

“Last night was very difficult,” he said. “It was very scary at times.”

However, every time the sun rises, Shoreman is revitalized. Neumann said he had never met someone with “such raw determination.”

“I don’t know where he gets it from. It is truly something to witness,” she said. “And he just gets it out there and remembers why he’s doing this and then he does it.”

Closer to town, paddleboarders from the Chicago Stand-Up Paddleboarding group joined Shoreman for one last push.

“You guys are the best,” Mike told them once they were all on the ground.

“We are just support. YOU are the best,” replied a paddleboarder accompanying him.

A five-person support crew accompanied Shoreman by boat on his final voyage, including two cameramen, two captains and Neumann. They help keep his spirits up and help with logistics, like feeding him a carb shake every 30 minutes and having him drink electrolytes every hour.

The next and last Great Lake Shoreman will attempt to cross is Lake Ontario. He tried to cross it from Rochester to Toronto in the summer of 2021, but was unsuccessful. He will face the challenge again in mid-August.

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Shoreman said her team says they love these trips and always ask her where the next adventure will take them.

“I joke, ‘Well, maybe we could do the Arctic next,’” he said with a laugh. “No, I have interests, of course. But you know, this has a purpose.”

He talked about how many people suffer from mental health problems such as anxiety, stress and depression.

“We don’t talk about it, and a lot of people suffer and they shouldn’t, and this is to raise awareness and hopefully raise a lot of money to save young lives,” he said.

Whether Shoreman will attempt to cross other large bodies of water in the future remains to be seen. But regardless of what happens next, Neumann is convinced of one thing.

“It won’t be the end of what you hear about Mike,” Neumann said. “He will continue to be out there, making a difference.”


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