50 mile relay swim in Lake Superior begins at Split Rock

Published: Aug. 29, 2023 at 2:53 PM CDT
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TWO HARBORS, MN. (Northern News Now) - From the shores of Pebble Beach, family, friends and spectators gathered to send off six seasoned marathon swimmers embarking on a 50 mile swim in Lake Superior.

Karen Zemlin, a 55-year-old marathon swimmer, says she lives for events like this.

“I’m super excited,” said Zemlin. “I am charged up and my husband can’t keep up with me this morning.”

She and five other swimmers, most of whom are from Minnesota, aim to accomplish something no one has before: relay swim from Split Rock to Duluth beginning at 8 a.m. on Tuesday morning.

“When they sound the airhorn, I’m going to know that it’s time for me to enter the water and I’m going to start swimming with the kayaker out towards the sailboat,” said Zemlin.

After finishing packing up the boats, the rest of the swimmers joined the gear and set sail while Zemlin stayed on shore.

What day the swim would begin was entirely based on the weather, but with Tuesday’s conditions there was no need to delay the relay.

“These clouds are even going to clear up and I think it’s going to be clear,” said Zemlin. “Maybe the wind will pick up a little bit but the swimmers don’t mind a little chop on the water. It’ll create some some fun.”

The six will trade off swimming in approximately 62 degrees Fahrenheit in nothing but their swimsuits, a cap, goggles, and some earplugs.

The athletes find these conditions ideal but John Shepard, Assistant Director for the Center for Global Environmental Education at Hamline University, says they are cause for concern.

“Water temperature is looking favorable for this one, which of course, the fact that it is as warm as it is, kind of relates to the warming of the lake,” said Shepard.

Hamline University and PBS North are documenting the swimmers’ journey across Lake Superior to raise awareness of the effects of climate change on the lake, which Zemlin hopes is the real splash this swim makes.

“Will I have a point where I don’t want to get back in,” said Zemlin. “I don’t know, maybe, but you just, you do it because we have a purpose, we’re both doing it to accomplish this challenge for ourselves and to draw people in to learn more about what’s going on with the lake.”

The swimmers are expected to end at the North Lighthouse in Duluth around 8 a.m. Wednesday morning.

To follow a live tracker of the swimmers online click here.

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