American Heroes Canoe 60 Kilometres to Escape to Canada

We spoke to Ariel Travis, who paddled his way across Lake Erie for fun.

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Jul 6 2018, 2:49pm

The heroes stand with their canoe on the shores of Lake Erie. Photos courtesy of Ariel Travis

Two men from the United States recently went on an epic canoeing adventure that led to them crossing the Canadian border in an unusual way.

Ariel Travis, 24, of Cleveland, Ohio, and his uncle Dan Shain, of New Jersey, bought a canoe two days before they went on a “super last-minute” journey paddling their way across Lake Erie.

Their trip started on June 25, took about two days, and spanned about 64 kilometres. Along the way, the canoers experienced some rough waters, regularly encountering waves three to eight feet high.

When they arrived in their canoe—which featured both American and Canadian flags—at a marina in Colchester, Ontario, they were greeted by an excited Canadian security guard.

“He was shocked and insisted he take a picture of us, otherwise no one would believe him,” Travis told VICE.

The guard told the men how to contact Canadian border security. Travis said they had a conversation with a border guard over the phone who seemed intrigued about their adventure and asked them for passport numbers, along with standard questions. They weren’t called to come in person for further screening and returned to the US shortly after by car.

The guys stopped on an island to camp overnight on their canoeing trip.

The border between the US and Canada is the longest in the world and stretches nearly 6,500 kilometres (not including the Alaskan border)—most of which is unprotected and unmarked.

In May, the US detained a 19-year-old student for two weeks after she accidentally crossed the border while jogging on a beach in British Columbia. She did not have travel documents on her at the time of the incident.

Though Travis and Shain’s cross into Canada by way of canoe may seem strange, they both had valid passports with them. Travis, a dual citizen of the US and Canada, had researched beforehand about how to properly cross the border given their unorthodox method of travel.

Travis said one of the best parts of the trip was the stunning nature along the way, including pelicans and Dr. Seuss-like birds

“I love Canada,” Travis said. “As soon as I crossed the border into Canada and saw the security guard, I knew he was Canadian… just the way he talked, how friendly he was.”

Travis, an entrepreneur, described both him and his uncle, a microbiologist, as adventurers. They had experience with water sports prior to this excursion, especially Shain.

An essential safety measure for the trip included equipping the canoe they bought secondhand for $250 with an outrigger to protect them from waves. Without that, Travis said, “We never would have made it.”

Dan Shain, left, and Ariel Travis show off their sunburns they got from the canoeing trip.

Local media in Cleveland has contacted Guinness World Records to find out if the guys broke any records and is waiting to hear back.

“It’s a trip that has serious risks if you make any mistakes,” Travis said as a word of caution to others who might be considering a similar journey. “It’s doable… But it’s also extremely dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing.”

Putting aside the logistics of canoeing a Great Lake for two days, crossing an international border seems to be a pretty scary ordeal lately. Luckily the guys didn’t have to be concerned about getting detained since they were visiting Canada and had their travel documents in order.