Our friend Mike Shoreman, who was attempting to become the first person with a disability to cross Lake Ontario on a Starboard stand up paddleboard had to call off his journey before reaching his goal. “It didn’t turn out the way that I hoped. But it’s a first shot and I’m going to do it again!”
Becoming the Unbalanced paddler
In 2018, 38-year-old Canadian Stand Up Paddle Coach Mike Shoreman was diagnosed with Ramsay Hunt Syndrome (RHS), a neurological condition caused by the aftermath of chickenpox and shingles. This chronic disorder caused the right side of Shoreman’s face to collapse, impaired part of his hearing, and created problems with his speech and sense of balance, leading doctors to tell him he could never paddleboard again, thereby ending his career.
But in the summer of 2019, Shoreman began defying the odds in order to get back to doing what he loved most: paddleboarding. The first time was only a few minutes long, but “I felt like I was home,” he said. Although it left him couch-bound for a day and a half, he persisted. With the help of his friend, WSUP Toronto founder Gudrun Hardes, he trained at Toronto’s Kew Beach for literal minutes at a time. “I had gone from being in a bathtub in my bathing suit with the door open in case I needed to be rescued, to this,” he said.
Shoreman began healing from grief, anger and sadness at the Durham Mental Health Services Centre in Ajax. He then won the Canadian inspirational speaking competition SpeakerSlam, where his speech went viral. He says his journey began not just to defy the odds but to show others that they could do the same.
A new challenge: be the 1st paddler with a disability to complete an international crossing
Shoreman began preparing for this summer’s three-day paddleboarding journey in January. He would train in temperatures as cold as -27 C wearing a dry suit, intensifying his training with weights and kettlebells by the springtime. He would speedwalk instead of running, due to his vertigo, a symptom of his RHS. By April, Shoreman says he was in full swing to travel long-distance waters.
Along with his physical training, Shoreman spent months contacting companies across Canada and the U.S. to help support youth with disabilities and help sponsor his cause. “ I broke it down by companies that made huge financial gains during this pandemic period,” he said. “And I contacted all of their marketing departments and asked them to care about kids.”
With the support of Jack.org, a non-profit organization focused on youth mental health and suicide prevention, Shoreman has been able to raise close to $50,000. The money will go toward non-profit organizations such as the Tower Foundation based in New York, the Trevor Project and fashion designer Kenneth Cole’s Mental Health Coalition.
Shoreman said it was “exhausting,” between training and seeking support from these companies. It took a huge toll on his body, to the point where he lost 25 pounds when he should have gained 15 pounds in the process.
“I will get this done”
Mike Shoreman began his 140-kilometer expedition on Sunday, with the aim of becoming the first person with a disability to paddleboard across international waters from Rochester, N.Y., to Toronto. But the journey didn’t turn out how he expected — by the end of the second day, it became clear that strong winds and massive waves on Lake Ontario would prevent him from completing his three-day trip.
So when Shoreman paddled into Kew Beach early Tuesday, he said he was feeling emotional from a combination of physical exhaustion and disappointment at not achieving his goal this time. “I think people saw my heartbreak today,” he said.
Regardless of his trip being cut short, he said he could see all of the support he was receiving upon his arrival.
“I am grateful for the love and support of the teams that I have built who carried me through the last several days and months: the boat captains, the ones who kept me fed and hydrated, the ones who kept my spirits up when eight-foot swells and heavy headwinds came at me,” Shoreman said in a speech upon landing. “My team has been incredible. I planned for so much but there were things we just could not plan for.”
“Unfortunately, this means that my goal of being the first person with a disability to paddle from one country to another, across international borders, has been put on hold.”
During his attempt to cross Lake Ontario, Shoreman said that each day consisted of increments of paddling for two to two-and-a-half hours, with 15 minute breaks in between. He would carry hydration packs of energy drinks and water and a safety team would always be travelling behind him. But regardless of the number of breaks or safety measures in place, the journey began to weigh on him.
“It was hard to get on the boat to have something to eat … anchoring a boat and trying to get off a paddleboard onto a boat to have a sandwich in eight-foot waves is exhausting,” Shoreman said.
By the end of his first day paddleboarding, he said he was in “excruciating pain,” with blisters on both hands.
But he was not ready to give up so easily.
“There’s a song by Skylar Grey I love that I replayed while I was out there, called ‘Coming Home,’ tell the world I’m coming home,” Shoreman said. “This was about youth mental health and supporting organizations that focused on that.
“This three-day journey has taught me a lot and I hope that it teaches others that wherever they are, they know they’re not done. This is just the beginning for them.”
“Starboard have been amazing”
Mike Shoreman used a 2018 Starboard for his attempt. “My 2021 is still in a container on its way to Toronto so We borrowed a 201 Starboard have been really supportive. They have contributed by sponsoring me with a board, a paddle and all my apparel. I can’t wait to complete the crossing next year with my new board”