Paddleboarders Charge Across Lake Ontario

Sunday, July 30, 2017—The 2017 Lake Ontario Crossing Paddleboard Race saw a determined field of paddlers push 32 miles through challenging conditions to successfully cross Lake Ontario. After the 2016 crossing was modified due to extreme weather, this event marked the largest organized paddleboard race across the Great Lake.
Lake Ontario crossings of any variety are steeped in history after Marilyn Bell’s historic 1954 swim.
After training demands and a tough logistical undertaking, 13 paddlers made it to the start line—races of this magnitude are for the most committed paddlers, and getting to the start line is often half the battle.


The challenge continued on the water, with paddlers waking up to an incoming shorebreak and 12 knot headwind. All paddlers deserve respect for even stepping in the water knowing the battle ahead. The headwind lingered longer than forecast, well into the middle of the crossing before ultimately subsiding for a faster finish.


The great variability of conditions on the Great Lakes is one of the biggest challenges, both mentally and physically, of this crossing. Paddlers must train and mentally prepare for flat water, headwind, downwind gliding, rolling 4-foot swell and everything in between.
Representation on the start line was diverse: Men and women; solo and relay, and geographic representation from Ontario, Quebec and Minnesota.
Every paddler who took on this crossing deserves major respect. Here are a few highlights:
John Shelley successfully crossed Lake Ontario after recently being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, and was first across the finish line in 8 hrs 13 minutes. John raised $11,000 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation while preparing for the event.
A 3-girl relay team featuring Julie Postill, Maddi Leblanc and Charlotte Conlin crossed the Lake in 9 hrs 26 minutes, marking the first such female crossing on record. “Friends, chase your dreams and push yourself everyday because you can do it”, Maddi writes.  “I learned so much from this crossing and will be forever grateful!”
Daryl Austin and Tom Millar of Team Ausmosis set the 2-man relay bar for next year at 8 hrs 17 minutes.
Gander Tawaststjerna, with a relentless attitude, made his second successful crossing after paddling in ocean-like conditions in 2015. “Battling the hard challenges of physical, mental, heat and time was brutal, but totally awesome!”


And, John Turkstra was less than 3 km from the outer harbour before being forced to pull out because of an escort boat issue. “By 2:30 it felt like I had not moved any closer to that stupid tall tower and her shorter friends”, refering to psychological tricks the Toronto skyline can play. After grinding for more than 40 km, this was one of the day’s more heartwrenching stories.


Giving back: The race, in conjunction with sponsor Ausmosis Board Craft, will make a donation to the Lake Ontario Waterkeeper. Ausmosis has partnered with the Waterkeeper, which works hard to keep Lake Ontario clean, and provides timely information on local beach conditions – a great cause for all paddlers!


The Lake Ontario Crossing Paddleboard Race is sponsored by Ausmosis Board Craft in Port Dalhousie, ON. The event is sanctioned by the OMCKRA. Thank you to all volunteers who stepped up to make another year of successful racing. What conditions will 2018 bring?

Full Results

Name Class Time
John Shelley SUP 8:12:59
Gander Tawaststjerna SUP 8:15:40
Darryl Austin, Tom Millar SUP 2-relay (M) 8:17:11
Taras Myslyvchuk Surfski 8:33:28
Sebastien Ouellet SUP 8:47:55
Mike Austin SUP 9:18:40
J. Postill, C. Conlin, M. LeBlanc SUP 3-relay (F) 9:26:20
Nate Hildenbrand SUP DNF
Michael Taber SUP DNF
John Turkstra SUP DNF


Thanks to all paddlers/support crew for use of photos and social media quotes.