How the inspirational Mike Shoreman, the Unbalanced Paddleboarder became a SUPer Hero

21 Dec 2019

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In November 2018, Toronto-based Stand Up Paddle coach Mike Shoreman was diagnosed with a rare disease, the Ramsay Hunt Syndrome. All at once, he lost his balance and as a direct consequence, his independence, his SUP-coaching business and his social life. But Mike’s story in 2019 is not about falling down, it’s about standing up again. A public speech competition about the power of positivity which he won in August has created a viral effect on social media, touched millions of hearts and triggered the #PaddlesUp movement amongst the worldwide SUP community. Meet the Unbalanced Paddleboarder, our new SUPer hero!

Who are you Mike? What’s your story been until now?

My name’s Mike Shoreman and I’m a paddleboarder and former Paddle Canada SUP Coach and taught stand up paddle boarding and ran a business in Toronto. I’ve been paddle boarding for 8 or so years now and I love it!

How have you been connected to the world of Stand Up Paddling?

It’s crazy how connected we all are. I have friends who SUP all over the world. If I scroll through my newsfeed, it’s awesome seeing people I’ve never met but who I feel I know, out enjoying paddleboarding in their home cities or on their travels. It’s a pretty rad community.

Tell us what has been happening to you for the past year.

In November 2018 shortly after returning from a business trip to California to set up a paddleboarding retreat partnership, I got ‘SUP’er sick really fast. My chicken pox virus from when I was a kid reactivated as shingles and attacked my ear. It’s classified as a very rare neurological condition called Ramsay Hunt Syndrome. My face collapsed on my right side, hearing damage, a bunch of stuff, and I lost my sense of balance. Last Christmas, I wasn’t really walking. In April, I was told by doctors my paddle boarding would not be a reality anymore. In May I was asked by the Canadian Safe Boating Council to help again for their media day and I got on a paddleboard for the first time again! Very nervewracking few minutes but it was awesome.

You’ve been delivering amazing inspirational speeches. How did you get involved in conferences and public talks?

Thank you! This past August I entered Canada’s largest inspirational public speaking competition called Speaker Slam and the event was about acts of courage. I gave my first speech ever that evening to 300 people hoping to uplift a few people in the room. My speech “I said yes” won that evening and went viral being run on several platforms including The Power of Positivity and Actor Ashton Kutcher’s platform A PLUS! I think that first talk has been viewed by about a million people now. Crazy stuff!

What is the “Paddles Up” movement and how was it born?

So “Paddles Up” is a pretty big part of my first talk. As soon as my speech was posted on Youtube and Facebook people started sharing it and then the platforms ran it and it got crazy really fast! I quickly heard from people from all around the world. And the paddleboarders!!! They started taking pictures of themselves on their boards with their “Paddles Up” to salute and stand in solidarity with what I was saying. Cheering for me and other people struggling. It’s a pretty beautiful thing. I get new pictures on a pretty regular basis which is pretty cool! Theres been hundreds of paddleboarders and kayakers and canoers from 41 countries now and 19 U.S. states have participated! People started calling me the unbalanced paddleboarder, it’s been pretty cool! Please dont ask me which “Paddles Up” photos are my favourite! That’s like having to choose a favourite kid. They’re all special to me and to the people watching. Its been an amazing gift what the paddle community has done and continues to do.

Paddles Up in Tahiti with Mr TotalSUP !

How much SUP do you these days and what happened to your coaching business?

In April, I was told my paddle boarding career was not a reality. In May, I got on a board for the first time, just sitting down. I’m now up for short periods. Most people with my condition have trouble being around water and it does make me feel sick after. I was very sad to close my business in May 2019 and my career as a Professional Paddle Coach is now behind me. But I do get out on the water when I can for fun, for me and that will never change. I just need a supervisor with me!

How do you see the future?

I just gave a new talk on the power of community at the Speaker Slam: Grand Slam and the reaction has been amazing. I live with a neurological condition, it’s not easy but I’m managing. I have several corporate speaking engagements booked for 2020. I’ve been asked to speak at a few international events next year which is great. The future looks bright. Some days are still very tough but how could it not look bright when you have this awesome community cheering you on with their…. “Paddles Up.”

To join the paddles up movement, post regular photos with your paddle up and hashtag #PaddlesUp on Instagram

To follow Mike Shoreman on Instagram, go to: @TheUnbalancedPaddleboarder


About the Author

Mathieu Astier

Mathieu is the hyper-active founder of TotalSUP and a multilingual online marketing veteran with more than 20 years of experience working for top international internet companies. His love-at-first-sight for Stand Up Paddling in 2013 led him to build one of the leading online media dedicated to SUP in English and French and to turn his family lifestyle towards the ocean.

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