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This article was published 10/6/2018 (590 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Alex Martin has a few things to check off on his to-do list this summer.
Graduate from Westgate Mennonite Collegiate — check.
Decide to go to the University of British Columbia next year after first taking a gap year — check.
Paddle a kayak by himself for several hundred kilometres around Lake Winnipeg to raise awareness about sustainable watershed management — that’s still one to check off.
But Martin, who just turned 18, plans to check that final box off in the next few weeks when he puts his solo blue and white kayak into the waters of Lake Winnipeg at Grand Beach Provincial Park and takes his first few strokes in a 1,750-kilometre trip.
"I begin on June 27 and I expect it to take two months," he said on Sunday while taking a few strokes at FortWhyte Alive.
"Some people on the way have invited me to go paddle with them. Some have invited me on photography tours. Some communities have offered me a place to shower and eat.
"This trip is mostly about awareness. Everyone knows where Lake Winnipeg is, and everyone is aware of what’s happening to it, but sometimes, people need a reason to associate it with a problem."
And Martin said there is one more reason why he is spending his first summer after high school graduation paddling for weeks by himself.
"It’s fun — there’s nothing else I’d rather do then kayak in the summer," he said.
Martin said he will go clockwise around the shores of the lake, heading south from Grand Beach and passing by Gimli by day four or five of his journey. He hopes to get back to Grand Beach by the end of August.
Martin said he doesn’t know if he’ll be the first to solo paddle around the entire lake, but he knows a couple of people did it together in 1983.
He said because he’ll be on his own he won’t be taking any chances. He said he will paddle hugging close to shore, so if something happens he is a short swim from dry land. He also won’t paddle at night or cross wide expanses of water.
Martin has lined up various sponsors for his trip including Wilderness Supply, Wind Paddle Sails, Gearlab, and — in a wise move, in case it’s all he has to eat on board at times — GORP energy bars. He has also set up partnerships with the Lake Winnipeg Foundation, the Manitoba chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, and the Pimachiowin Aki world heritage project.
He hopes to paddle about 30 kilometres per day, but that could change based on weather conditions.
"The wind will matter," Martin said. "It will be at my back and my front.
"It will always be there."
Martin said he has also heard that depending which way the wind is blowing could determine how easy — or hard — it is to get through the relatively narrow opening between the lower and the upper basins of the lake at Hecla-Grindstone Provincial Park.
He said he has set up various food drops in communities he will paddle past, so he doesn’t have to take two months worth of food with him.
And Martin said he will be connected with the outside world with a VHF radio, a cellphone and a Garmin inReach device.
He said people can follow along with his travel progress on his website at lakewinnipegcircumnavigation.com.
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.
Updated on Sunday, June 10, 2018 at 11:02 PM CDT: Edited