Toronto Man Becomes First Person with Disabilities to Cross All 5 Great Lakes by Stand-Up Paddleboard

·3 min read
- Mike Shoreman, Paddling Where was the image taken - Lake Ontario When was the image taken - August 19/20, 2022 Who took the photograph - Matthew Wagner Full credit line –  Source contact information: Name: Matthew Wagner Phone: 810-391-7542 E-mail: matt@matthewwagner.org Image sent by: Matthew Wagner via e-mail
- Mike Shoreman, Paddling Where was the image taken - Lake Ontario When was the image taken - August 19/20, 2022 Who took the photograph - Matthew Wagner Full credit line – Source contact information: Name: Matthew Wagner Phone: 810-391-7542 E-mail: matt@matthewwagner.org Image sent by: Matthew Wagner via e-mail

Matthew Wagner

It was a great day over the weekend when Mike Shoreman crossed the last of the five Great Lakes by stand-up paddleboard.

The former paddleboard coach, now 39, was diagnosed with Ramsay Hunt syndrome in 2018, losing some of his mobility, which ultimately affected both his career and his mental health.

Shoreman eventually started volunteering with jack.org, a Canadian organization dedicated to youth mental health, and when he started feeling ready, knew he wanted to do something "newsworthy" to help the cause, he tells PEOPLE.

He first tried to cross Lake Ontario from New York state to Toronto by stand-up paddleboard last summer, but had to call the voyage halfway through. "I was crushed," he says of the aborted mission, stopped by a tropical storm. After taking a month to "heal from the devastation," as he says, he started training again in October, this time with a bigger goal: crossing all five Great Lakes.

- Mike Shoreman, Paddling Where was the image taken - Lake Ontario When was the image taken - August 19/20, 2022 Who took the photograph - Matthew Wagner Full credit line –  Source contact information: Name: Matthew Wagner Phone: 810-391-7542 E-mail: matt@matthewwagner.org Image sent by: Matthew Wagner via e-mail
- Mike Shoreman, Paddling Where was the image taken - Lake Ontario When was the image taken - August 19/20, 2022 Who took the photograph - Matthew Wagner Full credit line – Source contact information: Name: Matthew Wagner Phone: 810-391-7542 E-mail: matt@matthewwagner.org Image sent by: Matthew Wagner via e-mail

Matthew Wagner

The first was Lake Erie in late May, followed by Huron, Superior, Michigan and finally Ontario.

"Each crossing presented different challenges," he shares. "Huron was 27 hours, Michigan 28 — they were overnight crossings." Crossing in the dark with his vertigo and hearing impairment was "exhausting," he continues. "At 18 hours my body really started to break down. It started to become a mental game rather than physical: how bad do I want this?"

Going into Chicago across Lake Michigan, "there were 20-knot winds coming right at me, I really had to fight for that one." Thankfully, Shoreman had a team alongside him, guiding him through his lowest points and making sure he stayed mentally and physically competent along the way.

"It's one of the most challenging things I've ever done," he says, "but it's been the most rewarding thing I can or will ever do."

Shoreman's arrival into Toronto on Aug. 20 was met with much celebration.

- Mike Shoreman, Paddling Where was the image taken - Lake Ontario When was the image taken - August 19/20, 2022 Who took the photograph - Matthew Wagner Full credit line –  Source contact information: Name: Matthew Wagner Phone: 810-391-7542 E-mail: matt@matthewwagner.org Image sent by: Matthew Wagner via e-mail
- Mike Shoreman, Paddling Where was the image taken - Lake Ontario When was the image taken - August 19/20, 2022 Who took the photograph - Matthew Wagner Full credit line – Source contact information: Name: Matthew Wagner Phone: 810-391-7542 E-mail: matt@matthewwagner.org Image sent by: Matthew Wagner via e-mail

Matthew Wagner

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"It was wild," he says of the hundreds of friends, family members and fans waiting for him on the shore. "My family is so proud. I feel like I've been absent to them in the last year but they understand why. And I'm very grateful."

To date, Shoreman has raised almost $70,000 for jack.org on his mission with a goal of hitting $100,000 as his story spreads.

"This is all for the kids, for young people," he says. "I felt very alone and helpless in my mental health journey four years ago and I decided I didn't want young people or kids to ever feel that way. To see them respond is amazing."

Shoreman had a video team with him on his journey; he hopes to debut a documentary about his experience at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival. But for now, he's ready for a break.

"I'm going to take some time for me," he says of short-term plans. "Although everyone keeps telling me I should go on the Amazing Race!"