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'Old Man Winter' won, says Missouri woman on abandoning Great Lakes paddling odyssey

Harsh winter weather conditions along Lake Ontario have forced a Kansas City woman to abandon her attempt to break a world record in paddling.

Traci Lynn Martin, 50, sought to break the Guinness world record for longest nonstop solo trip on a surf ski in a calendar year by paddling around all five Great Lakes. Since March, she circumnavigated lakes Huron, Superior and Michigan and paddled along the south shoreline of Lake Erie.

In mid-November she passed through Buffalo and Niagara.

But below-freezing temperatures, snow and ice on Lake Ontario led Martin to cut the trip short at Toronto, where she had been stuck for more than a week. She made the decision Friday, and announced it Saturday in an emotional video posted to her Facebook page.

"Winter is here," she said. "It's here and there's ice out on the water."

Martin said she and her boat, a variation on a kayak, would become coated in ice out on the frigid waters. Even four layers of clothing couldn't keep her warm. The forecast showed temperatures would remain below freezing for all but one day until Dec. 31, she said.

"It doesn't make any sense to continue so I think it's time to stop," she said. "Realistically I'm not going to make it. But I've done a lot. I came up here pretty naive about what I was getting myself into and I learned."

Created by lifeguards in Australia and popular on the West Coast, a surf ski is longer and thinner than a kayak. While the ends of a kayak flare up out of the water, a surf ski's entire length is in the water, making it sleeker and faster, and, like a sailboat, it has an understern rudder controlled by foot pedals.

Martin said she paddled the boat 3,582 miles during her voyage, short of the 3,900 she needed by Dec. 31 to break the record.

She paddled up the Niagara River in mid-November, then pushed her 19-foot-long surf ski on a two-wheel cart for 13 miles around Niagara Falls to Lewiston.

Missouri woman takes on 'feisty' Lake Erie in Great Lakes paddling odyssey

In her video Saturday, Martin recalled the warm reception she received on that portage.

"I had close to a dozen people who just showed up and said they wanted to walk with me, support me and encourage me," she told The Buffalo News on Monday from the road in Illinois. "It was so incredible. I've never felt anything so heartwarming in my life."

She started paddling clockwise around Lake Ontario, past Hamilton to Toronto where she arrived in early December. She tried to paddle in the harbors and among islands, but found conditions still limited her to several hours and miles a day.

"The conditions on the water became so rough that it wasn't wise to paddle in the water anymore," she said.

Even though "Old Man Winter won," Martin said she felt successful in her goal of inspiring people with chronic disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, which was her diagnosis in 2010.

Her immediate plans included spending the holidays with her kids and finding a new nursing job. She said she's considering another attempt in 2019.

"It was a great effort and I made a lot of great memories and met a lot of wonderful friends," she said. "This has been the adventure of a lifetime."

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