On August 11, 2020, 6 friends set out to swim across Lake Michigan. The event was organized by Jon Ornée of Holland, Michigan who recruited 5 other swimmers including his brother Dave Ornée, Nick Hobson, Jeremy Sall, Matt Smith and Todd Suttor.
They left the shore at Rawley Point Lighthouse in Two Rivers, Wisconsin to begin swimming across Lake Michigan in an event they called EPIC SWIM 2020. After a 20 hour and 50-minute journey through-the-night they arrived on the other side at the Big Sable Point Lighthouse in Ludington, Michigan on Wednesday, August 12 at 4:10pm EST. It marked only the 2nd ever mid-lake crossing, first-ever relay-style crossing and by far the fastest-ever mid-lake crossing.
Here are some stats for you:
- 6 swimmers
- 54.5 miles in 20 hours and 50 minutes
- Average pace of 1:18/100yds
- Water temperature ranging between 51 and 70 degrees
- 2-4 foot waves
All 6 swimmers began and finished the long swim together for the first and last half mile. The majority of the swim was completed relay-style in 30-minute legs with at least one swimmer in the water unassisted at all times. For exchanges, the new swimmer would dive off the support boat, swim behind the previous swimmer and complete the exchange with a high five in the water.
The team waited weeks for the weather to be favorable. They were hoping for light winds out of the west with small waves for a majority of the swim. Their patience paid off and they were gifted an awesome weather window for the swim. They had a lead boat which dragged a lane line behind it to help them stay on course. All of the swimmers were aboard a second boat which allowed for efficient relay exchanges and comfortable conditions while recovering between legs.
The swim was also a tribute to Lake Michigan, which is the 5th largest lake in the world. The team was raising money through their GoFundMe campaign for FLOW (For Love Of Water), a non-profit, committed to protecting the Great Lakes.
For Jon Ornée, who organised this event, it was more than just a swim:
"Last year I was hit by an SUV while cycling. It was a near death experience and life changing moment that changed my perspective on life. As I laid on the asphalt waiting for the ambulance a mantra played in my head: “You only get one life. Make it Epic!”"
My right arm was wrecked and required reconstructive surgery. The 3-month recovery time gave me a chance to ponder what things in life I wanted to start pursuing. 4 months after the crash my new journey began. On Friday, September 20, with my right arm at 60% strength I completed the first-ever swim to North Manitou Island (7.4 miles). 3 days later I set a World-Ultra Cycling record across Michigan (205 miles @ 24.8mph). I was just getting started.
Over the past year, Jon has been tackling other things on his bucket list and sharing the journey. He started a band with his wife (Lady & Gentleman) and has released 3 music videos so far this year. He launched a Men’s Health Coaching group which has helped some clients lose 50 pounds. He has organised a Sub-2-hour marathon relay, he rode his bike 369 miles up Michigan (New World Record) and set a Guinness World Record for fastest 100 miles by bike while drafting his Dad’s minivan on a NASCAR racetrack (42.6mph average).
There is true weight behind the words, when Jon says: "One of my goals is to encourage others to live life to the fullest, but in pursuing any big goal or dream, there are hundreds of hurdles. I’d like to share the struggle, not just the happy ending."
His crazy events have been featured in Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Triathlete Magazine, the biggest swimming outlets in the world (Swimming World, Swim Swam), biggest cycling outlets in the world (Global Cycling Network, Cycling Tips, USA Cycling) and dozens of other local, regional and national publications and podcasts.
"I’m currently training, pondering and planning for 2021. My goals for the year include breaking the “Everesting” World Record (climbing the elevation of Mt. Everest as fast as possible - 29,029ft) and tackling some major cycling and trail running records. I’m also pondering a new “first-ever” swim but am not quite ready to release those details..."
We at THEMAGIC5 are truly inspired by Jon's willpower and fast pace. If you want to know more about Jon, go visit his website: JonOrnee.com