Whitby paddleboarder looks to be the first man with a disability to cross Lake Ontario

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Published August 17, 2021 at 8:20 pm

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A former paddleboarding coach who was diagnosed with a neurological condition three years ago is trying to become the first person with a disability to cross Lake Ontario on a paddleboard.

The 87-mile crossing between Rochester, NY and Toronto is expected to take Mike Shoreman, a Whitby resident, three days to conquer.

Shoreman was coaching with Paddleboard Canada when he was diagnosed with Ramsay Hunt Syndrome in 2018 A chronic condition, the disease caused his face to collapse on the right side and resulted in hearing impairments, speech problems and a loss of balance, effectively ending his professional paddle boarding career.

After months of physiotherapy retraining his brain to walk normally again, doctors said it wasn’t possible for him to get on the board again. And though he still struggles with exhaustion and dizziness, he is back on a board, reclaiming his identity and building his confidence back up.

“Dizziness, vertigo and exhaustion will be the biggest challenge but I owe it to the people who will come after me who will do this in future years to show them that this is possible.”

Shoreman’s Lake Ontario crossing will get underway Sunday and he estimates it will take 30 hours of paddling to complete the crossing.

He will be supported by two teams: the Toronto Police Marine Unit, and Gudrun Hardes – a paddleboarding expert who will be with Shoreman on the water.

Shoreman hopes the crossing will help to dispel myths about people with different abilities and to inspire those who have faced mental health struggles and people with different abilities to dream big, set big goals and work to achieve them.

So far his team has raised $41,143.40 of his goal of $100,000 for the journey. He has several major sponsors, including Meridian, Champion Leadership Group and Life to Paper, and he also has support from the staff and facilities at the Abilities Centre in Whitby.

Shoreman is a speaker, author and the winner of Canada’s largest inspirational speaking competition – Speaker Slam – and the winner of this year’s Stand Up Paddleboarding Man of The Year Award, the first Canadian and first person with a disability to do so. He is also a passionate mental health advocate.

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