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Traverse City residents paddle board across Lake Michigan

Jeff Guy
Courtesy photo
Five friends crossed Lake Michigan on stand up paddle boards this week.
Credit Kwin Morris

The question was straightforward. 

  “Wouldn’t it be cool to paddle board across Lake Michigan?”

Jeff Guy and four of his friends posed this at a Christmas party in December of 2013. This week, they made it happen. The five Traverse City residents became the first to make the 60 mile trip on stand-up paddle boards without assistance.

“It was one of the most physically grueling things I’ve ever done,” said Guy.

This was not their first attempt. The five made plans to make the trip last August but poor conditions turned them around before leaving. Ultimately, cold weather delayed their trip until their Wednesday morning departure from Algoma, Wisconsin.

This attempt was not without complication. Around midnight, temperatures fell to 40 degrees and the water hovered close to freezing. Meanwhile, the men paddled through the night under the Northern Lights. Each had their belongings in tow and used a personal water filter to drink directly from the lake to stay hydrated.

“The last 12 miles were really tough,” Guy explained. “We were paddling completely without our left arms going against the cross winds, and we got into some 3-4 foot waves.”

Family and friends met Guy, Kwin Morris, Joe Lorenz, Joel Mueller and Nick Darga when they finished on Thursday in Frankfort, Michigan. The arrival was especially meaningful for Guy who assumed his dad would be absent because of meetings in Chicago,  "But he ended up being there. So when we got close to the lighthouse I saw him there and go sort of emotional."

Credit Kwin Morris

Their trip raised money for a Chicago based non-profit dedicated to protecting the Great Lakes.

When asked if another crossing was on the calendar, Guy's answer was sure, “I don’t think I’d do it again for a long time.”