Michigan, USA - Joe Bidawid, professional board rider, uses his paddle in the fight to finding a cure for cancer. The middle child from a family of five children has his eyes set on breaking a world record as he trains to stand-up paddle surf across Lake Michigan from St. Joseph, Michigan to Chicago, Illinois.
The Farmington Hills, Michigan Chaldean native is perhaps one of the more versatile athletes in professional boarding. Skiing, snowboarding, windsurfing, kiteboarding, and surfing, Joe Bidawid has mastered them all at a world class level. Capturing the imagination of world boarders the Chaldean Aquaman has been featured in top sports boarding magazines and local Michigan papers.
Bidawid lost his father and good friend to Cancer. Receiving such devastating and tragic losses in his life Bidawid decided began a fight to raise awareness for cancer research. Over 50 miles of rugged water stand between him and his hopes of helping in cancer research. If able to cross Lake Michigan, Bidawid stands to shatter the previously held world record set by Laird Hamilton's of 17 miles across the English Channel.
“Who would have thought that from the Mesopotamian deserts would raise a world class professional water boarder,” says Christina Batu a California surfer and avid fan of Joe Bidwaid. “Okay fine, perhaps in California where surfing is a big thing, but in Michigan.”
Paddle surfing has been around for hundreds of years, with its origins from the Hawaiian Islands. Paddle surfing the great lakes is also nothing new as a Surf City Museum exhibit in Grand Haven pictures a stand up paddle surfer on Lake Michigan from the turn of the century. However, the rugged and chilled waters have seen few if any courageous paddle surfers since then.
Paddle surfers stand up on an elongated surfboard and use a long paddle to propel themselves The biggest difference between modern surfing and stand up paddle surfing is that paddle surfers don't need a wave. Paddle surfers can ride on the open ocean, on lakes, rivers or any other large body of water. Bidawid describes paddle surfing as "kayaking to the next level."
Bidawid says his success, passion, and love for the boarding were possible due to hard-work and a supporting and loving family. Bidawid’s siblings, older sisters Ann and Rita and two younger brothers, Fadi and Fred have always encouraged and cheered his efforts. Joe’s mother Amina and his late father Kamal, who passed away from lung cancer in 1996, instilled an attitude of generosity, compassion, and achievement.
The Bidawid family is no stranger to community support and generosity. Joe’s late uncle was the honored Raphael Bidawid II, the Patriarch of the Chaldean church from 1989 until 2002. A close friend to Pope John Paul II, the Patriarch was also the youngest catholic bishop ever appointed in the Catholic Church.
Joe’s relationship with his father was very close. Joe’s father Kamal helped nurture and guide the family, teaching them the importance of respecting and helping others. “My father was a very active person in the community. He was athletic, a bodybuilder, and he taught me how to swim when I was only 5 years old,” Joe reflects on how he came to love the water. “My mother Amina was also very supportive and motivating. She promised to make a special edition of her dolma dish. That is enough motivation for me to break the record,” he says with smile.
“My family’s generosity and love inspires me a great deal,” says Joe. “My family has been instrumental, especially my brother Fadi, who has provided a great deal of material and moral support and key inspiration.”
The family has always taken community activism seriously. Sharing an example Joe says, “Throughout his life, my brother Fadi has been actively involved in fundraising and helping various charities. I highly respect what he has been able to accomplish, which started at a young age. During high school and during the “Cans For The Poor” drive, Fadi went door to door and collected over 2,000 cans setting a school record that still stands to this day.”
Joe’s gratitude and humble demeanor is part of what makes the professional athlete sought after. Training and travel become quite expensive and the help of sponsors in covering the cost of equipment and travel are helpful.
With the help of his brother Fred, Joe has been training intensively for over a year to break the world record. Working out every day he only takes one day off a month. His weekly workout schedule consists of three days of Paddling (two days of 2-4 hour paddling and one day of long paddling 6-10 hours), three days at the gym working out for over three hours one – two days of cross board training and swimming.
The water board pent-athlete maintains a strict diet, trying his very best to resist his mother’s Dolma. “Like so many Chaldean mothers, my Mom is an incredible cook and when she makes Dolma, the best thing to do is to stay away, I just can’t resist the temptation.”
As of August Joe has raised over $4,000 dollars for cancer research through small donations from friends, families, and supporters. “My goal is to reach $10,000,” he says. Joe has partnered with the American Cancer Society to establish a website (http://www.LakeMichiganCrossing.com) to help raise awareness about cancer and his efforts to break the world record.
Supporters wishing to help find a cure for cancer can donate through via the website. 100% of the proceeds go directly to the American Cancer Society and all donations are considered a tax deductible donation.
Joe openly invites friends, family members, and fans to cheer him on as he crosses the lake. Groups are planning trips to Montrose Beach, in downtown Chicago to celebrate the new world-record as he crosses the Great Lake. “Those unable to be there can always help with cancer awareness in their own special way,” says Joe.