Avid paddle boarder says Lake Erie is her escape

One Christmas morning, residents of Erieau, Ont. spotted Santa Claus paddle boarding out on Lake Erie.

But, it wasn’t really Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick. It was local resident Kimberly Shillington paddling around, while wearing a Santa suit, to put on a show for the neighbourhood kids.

This is just a normal day for Kimberly. She can be found out on Lake Erie on her paddle board most days. The 40 year-old registered kinesiologist has spent her whole life living beside the lake, and grew up swimming in and boating on the water. And she still enjoys spending any moment she can in or by the lake.

“[I interact with the lake] mostly for recreation and fun and recharging. So, if I am not SUP-ping on it, I’m swimming in it, boating on it, walking beside it,” she said.

‘It was hard breathing’

When asked about the current state of Lake Erie, Kimberly said she is definitely worried. In particular, she has concerns about the algae blooms that have been plaguing the lake the past several years, and wonders how safe the water will be in the future.

“We’ve had a lot of algae blooms, which keep us off the lake or even beside [the shore]” she said.

A few years ago, she tried to go paddle boarding during a bloom, and learned quickly that it wasn’t a good idea to do so.

“The water was uncharacteristically hot. I wouldn’t even say warm, it was hot,” she said. “The waves were moving very thick. You could see the green spores in it. And it was hard breathing.”

The lake feels like home

Kimberly believes it’s important to protect Lake Erie because it’s part of the overall Great Lakes ecosystem. It is also an important piece of her community’s history and economy. Erieau is small fishing village, and a lot of its residents rely on Lake Erie for work.

But, there’s an even more personal reason why Kimberly thinks more needs to be done to protect Lake Erie: it feels like home to her.

“It’s a place I share with family and friends. It’s my escape. It’s my recharge. It’s where you can quiet things and reset your mind, your body, and your soul.”

Find out what you can do to help protect Lake Erie

Do you want to share what Lake Erie means to you? Share your thoughts on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #WeAreLakeErie.

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