‘Epic Swim 2020’ Team Completes Just Second Recorded Continuous Crossing of Lake Michigan

The Epic Swim 2020 team finishes their trek across Lake Michigan. Photo Courtesy: Epic Swim 2020

Jon Ornée and his “Epic Swim 2020” team have been dreaming about the chance to accomplish a truly rare feat in open water swimming. For the second time in history, a recorded swim has crossed Lake Michigan.

Nearly 22 years after the first swimmer crossed Lake Michigan, Epic Swim 2020, a six-man relay, crossed the 54 miles in nearly 21 hours, the second recorded continuous swim across the Great Lake.

The group of swimmers, led by Ornée, of Holland, Michigan, swam a relay across Lake Michigan from Two Rivers, Wisconsin, to Ludington, Michigan. The journey began at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday and finished at 4:10 p.m. Wednesday.

“It feels like we pulled off a minor miracle,” Ornée told Swimming World. “It is pretty surreal. For me personally, I have been dreaming of this exact thing for seven years. I finally was able to recruit five other people crazy enough to do it with me.”

The six swimmers were Jon Ornée, Nick Hobson, Matt Smith, Todd Suttor, Dave Ornée and former Ohio State swimmer Jeremy Sall. They dove in for the first five minutes of the crossing, then swam the final quarter mile to Ludington.

In between, the swimmers did 30-minute legs of the relay, with the next swimmer up diving in to high-five the exiting swimmer.

The direct route across is 51 miles but because of currents, Ornée said the swimming distance was around 54 miles.

The group is just the second on record to make the trip across Lake Michigan. The first was Jim Dreyer, who did it solo in 1998.

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“It is a sense of relief and joy. It took a lot of lives to make this happen. I have a great love and respect for Mother Nature,” Ornée said. “Once we started the swim it was pure joy but planning something like this takes so much. We needed boats and captains and medics and film crew. We had to find people to go an entire day.”

Thousands of people followed Epic Swim 2020 along on the live tracker, which the team said was motivating to know.

“On a team note, it is just a great bunch of guys. I knew a few of them before and we formed a really solid bond as a group,” Hobson said. “It means a huge amount because a lot of things have to go right. It is about patience and determination.”


  1. avatar

    Great Jobs Boys!

  2. avatar

    I know 5 guys who will definitively tell you Jim Dreyer was not the first to make the swim across. I was on a team of five that made the crossing in 1995. The swim we was actually the length of Lake Michigan starting at Mackinac Island and ending in Chicago. We left 8/1/95 and landed 8/15/95.

  3. avatar

    The swim was called the Lake Swim 350, it was relay style as each swimmer swimming 1 HR at a time. We did our crossing of Lake Michigan at Manistee Michigan. The swimmer’s hailed from Bourbonnais Il. The swimmers were Cary Johnson, Josh Schlesinger, James Haigh, Shaun Mckay and Toby Moore. Our Coach was Scot Boudreau.

  4. avatar

    The swim was to support the Ron Santos Freedom Jet Foundation for Juvenile Diabetes. So technical we were the first to swim the length and do the crossing.

  5. avatar

    So I can personally say that the 2020 group has done something awe inspiring.

  6. avatar

    after 25 years, welcome to the group. Shaun – Lake Michigan Crossing Alum 95

    • avatar
      Dan D'Addona — Swimming World Managing Editor

      Thanks for bringing this swim to our attention. Looking into the detail of the recorded crossings. This one might be the second continuous crossing. Will continue to look into it.