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The Unbalanced Paddleboarder, Mike Shoreman, suffers from a rare neurological disease. But that will not stop him from undertaking a landmark Great Lakes Crossing that will challenge not just his own strength, but the very possibility.

After crossing Lake Erie on May 31, Mike Shoreman became the first person living with a disability to paddleboard from one country to another, setting a new world record.

Shoreman, who spoke with Goalcast in early summer 2022, described in detail how he battled rip currents all afternoon, and how the grueling undertaking became even more challenging when, as he put it, “vertigo hit in the second hour,” taking “the support boats and himself off course.”

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But Mike is a born fighter, and pushed through the vertigo and against both the currents and his own human limitations; 30 hours later, he planted his two feet in Fort Erie, Ontario, where “one hundred people showed up [including] the mayor” to celebrate his arrival. No small welcome for no small feat, and no surprise for someone who has accomplished many wonders and accolades throughout his life, despite the challenges put before him.

Mike Shoreman: The Unbalanced Paddleboarder

Mike Shoreman in water

In 2018, Shoreman, was diagnosed with a rare disease called Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, which resulted in the loss of his balance and mobility. A celebrated paddleboarding coach, Shoreman was told by doctors that he would never be able to paddleboard again. In an interview with Starboard, Shoreman retold hearing the news as, “the toughest thing [he’s] ever been through” — a moment where his “identity was stripped away.”

Being told his “business was over and paddle boarding wasn’t a reality for [him] anymore” made him feel physically sick, but Shoreman — an eternal optimist — knew that where there’s a will, there’s a way and set out to relearn everything he knew about not just paddleboarding, but his own physical presence in this world, and in so doing, prove that no matter the setback, you can overcome.

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“When I first got on a board again in the Spring of 2019,” he recounted to us, “I lasted three minutes sitting down and it made me sick. It also gave me the confidence that I could go for three more minutes a week later… and then five. Two months later, after almost a year of physiotherapy, retraining my brain to walk again, I stood up for a few minutes.”

An incredible paragon of human persistence, Shoreman went from standing up for a few minutes to setting off on a mission to paddleboard across all five Great Lakes in an effort to raise money and awareness for youth mental health charities across Canada. That was the beginning of an entirely new — and more difficult — challenge.

Mike Shoreman and the Legacy of Challenging Canada’s Great Lakes

Mike Shoreman in a wetsuit on his board on the banks of a lake

Goalcast chatted with Shoreman to learn more about his mission, which in part was inspired by Canadian legends who conquered athletic feats to raise money for charity before him.

Thanks to this new challenge, Mike has been compared to both Jeff Adams, who famously went up the CN tower in his wheelchair to raise money for children with disabilities, and Vicki Keith, who, in 1988, became the first person to swim across all five Great Lakes, raising $600,000 for a similar cause.

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Keith’s achievements inspired Shoreman, who says, “she really paved the way for this to happen, she showed us what’s possible, and 34 years later, I’m setting out to do the same, but a little bit different.”

Shoreman sees the duality between Keith and himself as one that could echo into future generations, “I hope this inspires others to think, ‘I can do this’ as well.’”

Mike Shoreman’s Secret Weapons: a Healthy Mindset and Preparation

Mike Shoreman in a wetsuit and a blue suit

There are a variety of potential dangers that Shoreman could face on his crossing, explaining “anything can happen, these are the Great Lakes! They’re like little oceans!” Noting that, in some cases, he has to paddle through the night, Shoreman must content with exhaustion, even fatigue, and of course dehydration. “I’ve seen marathons where people have been pulled out of the water,” he said, “I hope that’s not the case with me.” 

Shoreman explained that he suffers from vertigo and dizziness as part of his neurological condition, so even when I turn my head slightly it spins like a carousel. So how can he possibly contend with 36 hours on a paddleboard?

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Shoreman regiments his paddle routine by standing up for 30 minutes, sitting down for 30 minutes, three sets at a time, followed by a 20 minute break. He is realistic about the dangers that lie ahead and plans well in advance to tackle them. But the physical challenges of his journey are not the only things he must overcome.

He mentioned that he has consistent meetings with a mindset coach and incorporates meditation into his daily routine, all in preparation to remain as calm as possible going into the challenge. He explains how important sleep is: “It’s easy to let your mind race at night but you have to put yourself in a place where you’re excited for sleep. Sleep is incredibly important since I won’t be sleeping during the crossings.” 

The Lessons of Mike Shoreman and Looking Beyond the Self

Mike Shoreman Oil Painting

On this crossing, Shoreman will be raising money for two partners. As he explained, “I am a person with disabilities but I’m raising money for critical mental health programs and services for kids in our local communities and across Canada, so I’ve partnered with Jack.org, who are Canada’s leading mental health organization for young people. They provide critical mental health programs and services in every community, every province and territory across Canada with a focus of creating chapters of their organizations in schools.” 

Along with Jack.org, Shoreman is also partnering with eSSENTIAL Accessibility, which helps people with disabilities equitably access the digital world through web compliance and assistive technology.  

Shoreman’s journey has just begun and will continue to unfold all summer, the schedule of which you can see below, and by visiting his Jack.org donations page:

  • Lake Erie – May 27th – May 30th – Sturgeon Point, NY to Crystal Beach, ON
  • Lake Huron – June 11th – June 18th – Harbor Beach, MI to Goderich, ON
  • Lake Michigan – June 25th – July 4th – Union Pier, MI to Chicago, IL
  • Lake Superior – July 17th – July 20th – Orienta, WI to Two Harbors, MN
  • Lake Ontario – August 10th – August 17th – Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON to Toronto, ON (Harbourfront Centre)

We wish Mike all the best on his incredible journey!

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