What started as a hobby for Joe Lorenz, Kwin Morris, and Jeff Guy has turned into Stand Up For Great Lakes, an environmentally focused nonprofit organization. Going by “Three Stand-up Guys,” the trio of paddleboarders raise money for important causes while crossing the Great Lakes. After successfully traveling across three of the five Great Lakes, this month they’ll take on Lake Erie.
Morris, 31, is a science teacher and coach in the Elk Rapids School District, and Guy, 33, is a financial advisor with Merrill Lynch in Traverse City who owns Paddle Guys, a SUP/kayak rental business on Torch Lake. The two met as children and played sports together as they grew up. The third paddler, personal trainer and Traverse City resident Lorenz, 33, joined the group later in life. Lorenz overheard Guy and Morris discussing a charity paddle-boarding trip at a Christmas party and connected with the men. The rest is history. What started as a pipe dream between the group has now evolved and the paddlers raise thousands of dollars on every trip.
The trio believes that taking care of lakes is a major step in taking care of the planet. Their goal with Stand Up For Great Lakes is simple: raise money and awareness to protect the Great Lakes, rivers, and streams of the mitten state. They started the organization after their first trip in 2015, a 60-mile, 25-hour journey across Lake Michigan that collected $10,000 in donations for the Great Lakes Alliance. “We raised so much money that there was no way we couldn’t keep going,” says Morris. “That’s a key motivator when we are out on the lakes.”
Each paddle board trip revolves around a different cause. Donations gained for their upcoming trip will go to the Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research (CIGLR), which is devoted to research and training that will keep the Great Lakes safe and healthy for their communities.
There is a weather window for this trip from June 15-22, allowing the Three Stand-up Guys to plan around extreme weather conditions. Regardless, crossing Lake Eerie will be no easy feat. The men must come equipped for every situation — high winds that lead to big waves, passing through shipping lanes at night, hypothermia, and fatigue are just some of the possibilities. Though it is not the largest body of water the men have crossed, the Lake Eerie trip will be 80 miles and, according to Morris, completely unpredictable.
Each paddleboarder must also carry their own supplies, including food, extra clothes, and straws that can filter drinking water. “On all of our past trips, we’ve been able to drink the lake water,” Morris says. “The pollution is too strong, and we’ve been advised to bring our own water with us.”
The pollution that Morris is referencing is a major concern for the paddlers and for CIGLR. The organization the group pairs up with is, at the end of the day, the motivating force behind what the paddleboarders do. “It can get rough,” Morris says, “but you have to remember all the people that are supporting the cause.”
For more information about the Three Stand-up Guys and to make a donation to their cause, visit standupforgreatlakes.com.
From The Archive: Pirate of the Great Lakes