Four Former Guides on an Epic Adventure for a Great Cause

Four former Uncle Ducky’s guides and close friends Ryan Busch, Drew Etling, Karol Rajski, and Jared VanOordt set out on a voyage to kayak around the entirety of the Lake Superior shoreline, requiring true grit and dedication to their cause of raising awareness for preserving the Great Lakes.

On May 21st, Four the Water set forth from Presque Isle on their great adventure. They are also working alongside the Superior Watershed Partnership to collect water samples in order to track micro plastic levels in the lake.

With their longtime paddling experience in this vast freshwater sea and passion for the preservation of the Great Lakes, the four friends of Four the Water were more than willing to take on the challenge.



The process began back in July of last year. Months of training, fundraising, sponsorship seeking, and community rallying were spent in order to make this endeavor a reality.

Dehydration of fruits and gathering of equipment and other required materials were just the beginning. The local community came together and raised money to help them acquire some of their must-have items essential to their efforts.

“The support from the community is amazing,” said Etling. “The Marquette community is something else. I keep telling people it feels like a neighborhood, which it just does.”





In addition to the contribution to the Superior Watershed Partnership, there are a few other big objectives involved. Among them is to document Four the Water’s entire experience through photo, video, and online postings.

They intend to compile the footage they collect along their journey into a documentary, which would then be shown at film festivals within the Great Lakes region, such as the Fresh Coast Film Festival.




They’ve been on the excursion for a little over 2 months now, and have since surpassed the halfway point. However, with a long ways to go yet, some obstacles remain. So far they have faced a number of Mother Nature’s trials, such as “playing Frogger with freighters” in thick fog near the Soo Locks, a bear wandering a little too close for comfort to one of their campsites, and facing 40-60 mph winds in an angry squall near the Pukaskwa National Park. Additional trouble led one of team members, Drew Etling, to not be able to continue past the Canadian border.

Although sad to have to leave the others to continue, Drew was determined to find a way to retain the group of four they set out to be. He was determined to get back on the water, and made the decision to switch out his kayak for a canoe, and solo paddle a spectacular 300 mile route that the Native Americans once took. He would go from International Falls, Minnesota through the Boundary Waters, all the way out of the Pigeon River to Grand Portage.



As he wrote in a blog post, Drew noted, “adventure doesn’t start until something goes wrong.”


He has since completed this endeavor all on his own, and in just a few days’ time will be reunited with the other three to complete the last leg together.

In addition to Four the Water’s social media postings, you can track them in real time at their website You can also find their blog, more info about their story and background, and a map showing the physical location of their journey.

With the Upper Peninsula and greater regional area sending Four the Water support, we here at Paddling Michigan are incredibly proud to see what they’ve accomplished so far.

Each of the Four the Water team members had spent at least two summers as guides with us, and it’s great to see them take on such an incredible and purposeful endeavor. We wish Four the Water a successful and safe rest of the journey!


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