ST. JOSEPH, Mich. – The iconic shot of St. Joseph’s South Pier Lighthouse iced over in its winter wonder is a scene often pictured, but a lot less paddled. Former U.S. Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer Karol Garrison, of Perry, navigated floating icebergs on his stand up paddle board last Sunday.
“It ended up being an epic day, beautiful scenery, icebergs moving around,” said Garrison. “I was in as much awe as most people watching this video.”
Believe it or not, Garrison told FOX 17 that jumping into Lake Michigan was the coldest part.
“I went submerged and I thought, ‘Oh! That is cold!’ because I got fully under with the face, but never did my body, my core, actually get cold,” said Garrison.
It’s stunning footage filmed by photographer Seth Haley, which can come with a price if you are not properly dressed. Garrison said you must wear a thick wetsuit, his is a 5/6 millimeter grade, from hood to neoprene mittens and booties.
“I’ll never tell anybody that oh hey you can just jump in the water out there,” said Haley. “No, you have to understand, those kinds of wetsuits would only hold up for so long in the water. I know that from my experience with the Coast Guard as a rescue swimmer. I’m not expecting everybody to know that. I wouldn’t say hey, this is for everybody. No, this is not for everybody.”
Garrison was also wearing a personal flotation device and said to always go with a buddy.
“Make sure you go with people, I wouldn’t say go out alone, definitely not,” said Garrison. “We’ve had too many people go out alone and not come back.”
FOX 17 also spoke with local paddle board and winter sports retailers, including Bill and Paul’s Sporthaus, whose employees said people like Garrison are at the “extreme end” of the sport. They said paddle board and wetsuit sales barely make a “blip” in their sales’ numbers during the winter months.