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Jim 'The Shark' Dreyer is not ready to give up his love affair with Lake Michigan just yet

A West Michigan man is the first and only to swim across Lake Michigan. At 60 years old, he won't stop until he's done it again. But why?

SPRING LAKE, Michigan — A mist hung over all of West Michigan Monday, blanketing the area with rain all morning long. Ironically, it was the perfect weather for a man called Dreyer — Jim "The Shark" Dreyer

Contrary to his name, Jim has no fins. Only immaculately neat wetsuit tan lines. 

Jim is the only person to successfully swim the width of Lake Michigan, which he did in 1998. This year, he hoped to achieve the feat again on its 25th anniversary, and his 60th birthday.

“Lake Michigan was relentless... it just landed a flurry of punches. It was really a 25 hour beat down," Jim said. “You've got these eight foot waves, you know, pounding."

Along the journey, the current was strong. Waves were smacking into Jim and the 225-pound motorless dinghy he was pulling with all his supplies. Jim and his crew were forced to travel much further north than anticipated, adding numerous extra miles to Jim's course, because of the conditions. 

Jim swims to raise money for the Coast Guard's Chief Petty Officers Association. This is one reason he tries never to call the Coast Guard on his journeys, in hopes of never using taxpayer money to fund his rescue mission. 

Jim's dinghy began tearing apart at the seams, he attempted to patch it up with rope and carabiners, but it wasn't fixing anything. When the support boat was running low on gas and the waves started to rise past 8 feet, Jim's team decided it was time to throw in the towel. 

An exhausted but determined Jim was distraught. 

“That was a real hard pill to swallow," he said. 

Still, he’s not ready to hang up his fins just yet.

“I'm more confident than ever because I took a beating and I was still standing," he said. “I think what West Michigan knows, is that, if I don't make it, I'm coming back.”

So, how on Earth did he get into this? It was, surprisingly, his childhood fear that pushed him. 

“I nearly drowned when I was three years old. My sister found me floating facedown at the family cottage in the lake. She pulled me from the water saved my life," said Jim. 

After a swimming lesson at 32 years old, his fins started to grow. 

“If you can get through and get past your life's greatest fear, every other hurdle you face in life can seem that much smaller," he said. 

While swimming, Jim wears electronic goggles that show his path and how far he's gone. Every two hours, he has to swap out the battery. He uses that break to use the restroom and eat food to refuel his body for another two hours.

The 13 ON YOUR SIDE team was curious how bathroom breaks worked on the three-day-long journey. Dreyer was very open about the process, explaining he has a custom-made wetsuit with a zipper that allows him easy access while in the water. 

The next time The Shark takes to the water, you can bet 13 ON YOUR SIDE will be there 


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