SAULT STE MARIE, Michigan – A firefighter, a professor and a writer walk into the Gunslinger Saloon…It sounds like the start of a cheesy joke, but it’s actually the start of an epic adventure that saw three friends standup paddleboard (SUP) in all five Great Lakes in a single day.
“It really was an adventure of a lifetime,” said Dan Dakin, who organized the trip. “I had heard of people swimming in all five Great Lakes in one day and I figured paddleboarding all five would be a fun challenge.”
Dakin was joined on the trip by David Postman and Michael Taber, who said it was an easy decision to take part.
“I believe that opportunities like this are rare and I tend to take advantage of a chance to experience new things,” said Taber. “When Dan asked if I would be interested, there was no hesitation. The answer will always be yes.”
As far as the group’s research could find, standup paddle boarding all five lakes in one calendar day hadn’t previously been done.
“But that’s not why we did it, and if someone else has done it before us, we would love to hear their story,” Dakin said. “For us, this was simply about getting out there and doing something that we knew would be an amazing experience.”
Dakin, Taber and Postman after completing their journey at Sunset Beach on Lake Ontario. / Postman, Taber and Dakin on the shores of Lake Huron near Mackinaw City, Michigan. | Photos Courtesy: Dan Dakin
After making final preparations over some barbecue food and appropriately named Laker beer at the Gunslinger Saloon in Sault Ste Marie, Michigan, the three friends from the Niagara region of Ontario got a brief night’s sleep at a nearby hotel and then started a memorable road trip that none of them will soon forget.
Just after 7 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 3, the three men paddled out into complete darkness on Lake Superior to check their first of five Great Lakes off the list.
“We knew Lake Superior in the darkness was going to provide a challenge,” Postman said. “Being out on the water and not being familiar with our surroundings beforehand meant it could have been difficult to get back to shore if it wasn’t for lights we had placed there. It was very easy to lose a sense of your surroundings and direction.”
Postman, Dakin and Taber on the shores of Lake Michigan near Mackinaw City, Michigan. | Photo Courtesy: Dan Dakin
Next, they crossed the Mackinac Bridge to hit the crystal clear waters of Lake Michigan at 8:40 a.m. in Mackinaw City, Michigan. From there it was a short drive across the “Top of the Mitt” to Lake Huron, which the group paddled in at 9:45 a.m.
Next up came the most grueling part of the day – a nearly seven-hour drive racing the clock that took Taber, Postman and Dakin back into Canada at Port Huron and on to Lake Erie, which they paddled from Port Dover beach at 5 p.m. as curious tourists in winter coats looked on.
Paddling in the chilly, but clear water of Lake Michigan. / Using only headlamps and a spotlight on shore, the three paddled in Lake Superior in the morning darkness. | Photos Courtesy: Dan Dakin
As darkness set in, they drove through the backroads of the Niagara region, arriving at Sunset Beach in St. Catharines to SUP in Lake Ontario starting at 7:30 p.m. Unlike the first four Great Lakes, which offered up relatively flat conditions, Lake Ontario was serving up heavy wind and tricky little two-foot breakers, which were made significantly more challenging because of completely darkness.
Using a combination of headlamps, spotlights and car headlights, the trio — joined this time by paddling friend Lisa Beaudoin — finished off their epic day by paddle surfing on their home beach.
“I was happy to finish off a day like that which felt like two days, but I could have spent more time out there as we finally got some decent-sized waves,” said Postman. “In the darkness they would sneak up behind you, so you just had to be ready at all times, trust your instincts and ride the wave in.”
Dakin and Taber on the shores of Lake Erie at Port Dover. | Photo Courtesy: Dan Dakin
Taber said he would recommend a trip like this to all paddlers.
“One of the most enjoyable parts of the journey was the time spent with others who share the same passion and stoke for being on the water,” he said. “Catching a wave, no matter how small or short it is, completely dissolves all other daily stresses.”
The trio were supported in the adventure by Ontario-based SUP manufacturer Blu Wave, as well as their home shop, Outdoors Oriented Source for Adventure, Werner Paddles, Wetsox and SAXX Underwear.
“Without their support this trip may not have been a possibility,” Dakin said. “We’re fortunate to work with fantastic brands who support paddlers and are as adventurous as we are.”
A video of the adventure can be seen below.
By the Numbers
- Great Lakes Paddled: 5
- Standup Paddleboarders: 3
- Start: 7 a.m., Lake Superior (Sault Ste Marie, Michigan)
- Finish: 8:30 p.m., Lake Ontario (St. Catharines, Ontario)
- Distance Driven: 927 kilometres (576 miles)
For more SUP Journeys click HERE.