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Bold: ‘Unbalanced’ adventurer paddleboarding the Great Lakes

Mike Shoreman, the ‘Unstable Paddleboarder’, aims to be the first person with a disability to paddleboard between two countries even as he crosses the Great Lakes to raise awareness and funds for youth mental health
070822_LG_BOLD paddleboard Mike Shoreman
Paddleboarder Mike Shoreman lives with Ramsey Hunt Syndrome. He is seeking to cross all five Great Lakes this summer to raise funds and awareness for youth mental health.

Mike Shoreman, a Toronto-area man, has set off on a bold outdoor adventure in Northern Ontario to raise funds, raise awareness and educate people about the importance of treating mental health among young people. 

He said his target charity is, an organization that focuses on improving the mental health of young people in Canada. 

Shoreman set out Monday on a paddleboarding adventure that he is hoping will eventually see him cross all five of the Great Lakes, and be the first athlete with disabilities to do so. He has already paddleboarded across Lakes Erie and Huron. 

On Monday he set out to cross part of Lake Superior, from a shoreline in Wisconsin to an area north of Duluth, Minnesota. The trip is expected to take more than 30 hours. 

Shoreman said one of the reasons for the fundraising effort is tied to his own struggle that occurred after he was disabled and he experienced severe depression. 

"So, I am hoping to raise a lot of funds to support mental health programs in schools and high schools, colleges and universities in every province and territory across the country,” Shoreman said. “Mental health is the leading cause of health-related deaths in young Canadians. We have an opportunity right now to help these organizations that are underfunded and help support them. So I'm doing this to sound the alarm and hopefully people will help me.”

Shoreman's choice of adventure is tied to his previous occupation as the owner of a paddleboard business. While that was happening, Shoreman was hit with a disabling brain disorder — Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, the same condition with which pop star Justin Bieber was recently diagnosed — that left him partially paralyzed and unable to walk in 2018. 

He could barely function, he said, and lost his paddleboard business. Things are improved now, but Shoreman said he continues to have problems with vertigo, along with hearing and vision difficulties.  

Still, the paddleboarding is a challenge for him. Despite the struggles in his body and the struggles in his mind, Shoreman pushes on. 

"So you know this is a physical thing. For me, it's gruelling. I have to do a lot of it in the dark, you know, anticipating all different kinds of weather."

Shoreman said as experienced as he is in paddleboarding, there are times when it can also be mentally taxing for him.

I remember thinking when I was crossing Lake Huron, this is never going to end," Shoreman said.

"And that's kind of what it felt like when I had my mental health breakdown and I was going through my mental health journey." 

Shoreman said there were times when the mental struggle was harder than the physical challenge. 

"I think a lot of people who go through a mental health journey and think, you know, this is never going to happen, it's never going to get better. So mentally, it's probably more tough than it is physically."

Shoreman is not one to give up easily. As part of the therapy to bring himself back, he wrote a book, Diaries of The Unbalanced Paddleboarder: Crash and RISE, to document his situation with some humour and passion.

Despite the challenges, Shoreman said he is pleased with the fundraising and the awareness campaign this summer. 

"And kids are writing to me, sending me letters, sending me pictures. That's what we need. We need people to make pledges. And to help support this."

Supporters are encouraged to visit the donation page. Shoreman said the schedule this summer is to attempt the crossing of Lake Michigan on July 25 and to attempt crossing Lake Ontario on Aug. 10.

Len Gillis is a reporter at Bold is made possible by our Community Leaders Program.