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Toronto paddleboarder with disability set to cross fourth of five Great Lakes in July

A Toronto man is just a month away from becoming the first person with a disability to paddleboard all five Great Lakes.

Mike Shoreman says he’s tired but feeling good having crossed three of the large bodies of water and expecting to conquer number four, Lake Michigan, by the end of July.

The 39-year-old says the toughest of the three so far was Huron simply because of the length of the trek: 28 hours.

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“It started early on a Sunday and ended midday on a Monday and involved paddling through the night,” Shoreman told 900 CHML’s Good Morning Hamilton.

“The weather changed four different times while we were out there. So it was really challenging.”

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The former paddleboarding coach has Ramsay Hunt syndrome, the same affliction Justin Bieber was recently diagnosed with, tied to a chicken pox episode he had during his youth.

As a result, a shingles attack in 2018 to his inner ear precipitated a number of health issues via shattered nerves resulting in lost mobility, vision and speech impairments.

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“So I essentially lost my business,” Shoreman said.

“Somebody told me that I’d never paddleboard ever again, and eventually I had a mental health breakdown as a result of that.”

Shoreman credits treatment from a number of mental health organizations, local, national and international, for getting him back on a board.

He said it wasn’t easy, essentially having to learn how to walk again first before moving on to water sessions which only last about three minutes a day in the first week.

“But then it started increasing to five, seven minutes, nine minutes, and then I stood up,” Shoreman said.

His first Great Lakes excursion was a 140-kilometre trek in August 2021, when he crossed Lake Ontario between Rochester, N.Y., and Toronto.

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This latest challenge, conquering all five great lakes, started in May. He completed the Lake Erie crossing at the end of May and Lake Huron in June.

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The campaign hopes to collect $250,000 in donations by the end of the summer.

“My hope is that jack.org raises enough money for them to continue the great work and put more mental health programs in schools, high schools, colleges and universities in every province and territory across the country,” Shoreman said.

Lakes Erie, Superior and Huron have been crossed off his list as of last week, with Lake Michigan his next target at the end of July.

Shoreman expects to close out the five-lake venture with a crossing of Lake Ontario in August, finishing at Toronto Harbour.

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