July 31, 2017 10:39 PM
When you set out to break a world record, there are unexpected lessons along the way. That's what Traci Martin has found.
Martin intends to be the first person to surf ski around all five Great Lakes and break the world record for farthest nonstop surf ski paddling trip in one year. Her unexpected lesson is "people are good."
"It really restores your faith in humanity, just the generosity in people," she said.
She has some unique challenges of her own. She was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2010. She works as an RN and said she's seen how the chronic disease has impacted others' lives.
"Patients would come in with chronic illnesses, rheumatoid arthritis and other things, and they've just given up on life," Martin said. "So my message was to try to show people even though you have a chronic illness like rheumatoid arthritis, never stop doing the things that you love."
She began her journey March 9 in Port Huron, Michigan. She's already finished circumnavigating Lake Michigan and has moved on to the largest Great Lake, Lake Superior. She was in Two Harbors Monday night, headed for Silver Bay on Tuesday.
"The Great Lakes, that was a huge learning curve," Martin said.
She called Lake Michigan a "harsh mistress."
She said on Lake Michigan, she typically traveled 25-35 miles per day, going around 4.5 miles per hour. Lake Superior is a little slower because she's had a strong headwind going up the shore. She's been doing between 15-25 miles at about 3.8 miles per hour.
"Most of my experience was competitive racing on lakes and rivers, and nothing compares to the Great Lakes," Martin said.
A surf ski is basically a kayak meant for racing. It also allows for easier navigation of waves. Usually, they weigh about 25 pounds. Martin's has been reinforced and there are hatches added so she can carry a sleeping bag, tent and other gear with her.
Martin said surf skis are much tougher to paddle than regular kayaks.
"People who have kayaked for years, very good kayakers, sea kayakers, will sit in my boat and go right on over," Martin said. "You keep it up with your abdominals. There's no back rest, so you just keep your back straight, and your body just moves with the waves."
She's comfortable in 3-4 foot waves, she said. Once they get up to 5 feet, she can usually manage long enough to make it somewhere to pull out.
When she's not paddling, she usually camps, either on her own or in a camper pulled by a friend. In many places, she's been invited to stay at people's homes. She said it's restored her faith in humanity.
"To be out there and having strangers welcome you into their home and offer you dinner and a hot shower," Martin said, "they don't know me from a hole in the wall, and yet they're offering me their hospitality like I was family."
She said she's made wonderful friends, and that's ended up being the best part of the journey.
"It's really not about what I'm doing anymore as much as it is about just the generosity of people," she said.
She is still looking for people willing to let her camp on their property or stay with them along the North Shore on her way to Thunder Bay. She said the best way to contact her is texting her at (816) 536-1384. Her friend Bill, who is driving her truck and camper, can also be reached at (816) 547-3731.
You can follow her journey on her website.
She plans to wrap up the trip in December in Detroit, Michigan.
Updated: July 31, 2017 10:39 PM
Created: July 31, 2017 09:42 PM
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