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Three Stand-up Paddleboarders Lay Wreath over Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

Jul 11, 2018 12:24PM ● Published by Editor

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (WLUC) - At 8:46 a.m. Tuesday, July 10th, three young men departed on a trip which has never been done. They set out to paddleboard across Lake Superior, the largest, coldest, and most dangerous of the Great Lakes. 

“The new goal of this trip is to raise more than $20,000 for the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society,” says Morris, age 31, a teacher in the Elk Rapids School District. He and the two other paddle boarders are co-founders of Stand Up for Great Lakes, a non-profit organization set up to protect the Great Lakes and educate others about our freshwater resources. 

At twelve hours and 28 miles into their 61+ mile paddle, the men laid a wreath at the same spot the Edmund Fitzgerald sank more than 42 years ago. The bio-degradable wreath had 29 white carnations representing the members of the crew that went down in a terrible storm November 10, 1975 and one single carnation representing all who were lost on the great lakes. 

The story of the ship’s fate was made famous by the Gordon Lightfoot song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” The wreath was donated by Co-Ed Flowers & Gifts in Sault Ste. Marie.

The men were invited to a special ceremony in November of 2017 honoring the members of that ship and all sailors who’ve lost their lives on the Great Lakes. Joe Lorenz, Kwin Morris and Jeff Guy were each asked to ring the magnificent brass bell salvaged from the wreck site in their memory.

Dressed in their dry suits, the men are paddling the lake known for
38+ foot waves, fog that has brought down freighters, and water temperatures in the thirties.

“The crossing itself will take between 24-32 hours. 
The journey began from Sinclair Cove, Ontario, near centuries-old pictographs of paddlers painted on the cliffs by the Ojibwe. 

The men are expected to finish up at Whitefish Point in Paradise, the site of the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, on the morning of Wednesday, July 11th. 

The idea of paddling across Lake Michigan first struck the guys when Kwin and Jeff were doing a standup paddle together. They later met Joe Lorenz at a Christmas party, who had a similar idea. He said, “Let’s do it!” So, they put together the team and a plan, formed a non-profit and from that point forward worked to make it a reality. 

“They were originally going to try it alone and that wouldn’t have been a good idea,” says Adkins. “Then they talked to seasoned boat captain Ryan Matuzak, who is with North Country Sportfishing in Frankfort, MI. Ryan encouraged them to wait a year. They researched and became much better organized.” 

Their first crossing was Lake Michigan in 2015, a 60-mile and 23-hour journey in 37-degree water. They raised $10,000 for the Great Lakes Alliance. In June 2017 they crossed Lake Huron and raised $7,000 for Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The 90-mile paddle journey took over 28 hours to complete. 

Each paddle boarder carries all of his supplies on his own paddleboard: food, extra clothes, and straws that filter drinking water from the lake. There are many dangers they’ll face, aside from hypothermia and fatigue. High winds can crop up, leading to big waves, and they will pass through shipping lanes in the dark. 

“Fog can happen very quickly,” says Corey Adkins Director of Photojournalism for 9 & 10 News, a CBS affiliate based in Cadillac, Michigan. “That’s what caused a lot of the shipwrecks on Lake Superior. We don’t want to lose anyone in the fog.”

Watch the Crossing Lake Superior trailer here

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