8,600-mile trip with a message

Missouri woman paddling all five Great Lakes despite battling rheumatoid arthritis

Photos by Traci Lynn Martin In the middle of circumnavigating the Great Lakes, Traci Lynn Martin has taken plenty of pictures along the way. Martin, a kayaker from Kansas City, Missouri, is surf-skiing the five Great Lakes, a journey of 8,600 miles — 32.5 miles a day for 265 days. The trek is expected to last from March until December. Martin is seeking to inspire other people with illnesses, such as rheumatoid arthritis, with which she was diagnosed in 2010.

HOUGHTON — A woman circumnavigating the Great Lakes aims to set a couple records as she sends people a message to never give up, despite any hardship one faces.

“It’s been a really great journey,” said Traci Lynn Martin, a 50-year-old competitive kayaker from Kansas City, Missouri. “I’ve met a lot of amazing and wonderful people.”

An avid outdoor enthusiast her entire adult life, Martin began paddling for fitness in 2005. Her 2010 diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis set her back a bit, until she found a treatment that allowed her to continue kayaking.

“I’m trying to inspire others with rheumatoid arthritis or other illnesses to never give up on what you love,” Martin said. “I know once I get on the water and start paddling, I’ll start feeling better.”

Martin is currently rounding Lake Superior on her surf ski and about halfway through her 8,600-mile record-setting journey, which can be seen on her website, justaroundthepointe.com.

More effective than a regular kayak in the big waves of the Great Lakes, the surf ski is a kayak on top of which the paddler sits.

“I’ll be going until December,” Martin said of the long, arduous trek. To stay on track, the route demands she put in 32.5 miles a day for 265 days.

Martin grew up near Kansas City, Missouri. She is a registered nurse and worked in the neonatal intensive care unit at St. Luke’s hospital, until setting on the adventure of her life in March.

Working in the hospital, she witnessed people who succumbed to chronic illness, letting go of their dreams.

“They were just a shell,” she said sadly.

“I want to live life to the fullest,” she added, sharing the insight she’s gained. “If people keep putting off things they want to do, before they know it, they’re too old.”

Martin has three children: an adult daughter who is expecting Martin’s first grandchild in November and two sons: Daniel, 15, and Noah, who’s 11 years old.

While her sons spent some time with her on the journey, they still miss their mom.

“At their age, they don’t understand why I’m doing it,” she said. “But, if I wait until they’re older, I might not be able to do this.”

While no one is with her on the water, Martin isn’t alone. She’s working with a team of others, one of whom follows her in a truck with a small trailer where she sleeps when they can connect. Otherwise she carries a tent to sleep in or relies on the hospitality of residents along the route.

She spent two years planning and saving for the journey, cashing out her retirement fund to come up with enough to get going.

“It’s going to be worth it,” she said. “No one has paddled all five of the Great Lakes in one year.”

To contribute to the trip, Martin has a GoFundMe campaign at Just Around The Pointe.