“Ended Up Stranded”: Jim ‘The Shark’ Dreyer, Who Was Once Honored by Bill Clinton for His Achievements, Reminisces His Most Horrifying Incident

Published 09/27/2023, 10:14 AM EDT

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Jim ‘The Shark’ Dreyer recently reattempted to cross Lake Michigan for a second time this year. However, the 60-year-old was pulled back by his team after the weather worsened. While Dreyer would have pushed on in his younger days, he chose to return to the shore for a second time after August. Despite his reputation for not giving up, the swimmer made a strategic decision based on his experience at Lake Superior in 2005.

Faring through Lake Superior with limited vision, and compromised sense of direction, Dreyer learned some very valuable lessons. During an exclusive interview with Essentially Sports, Jim ‘The Shark’ Dreyer narrated the scare he received back in 2005. The man who received an honor from former President Bill Clinton himself recalled his tussle against the lake as he struggled to find his way ashore.

My bones would still be out there: Jime ‘The Shark’ Dreyer


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Jim Dreyer is known for his relentless strength along with his tenacious stubbornness. After all, even former President Bill Clinton complimented him and said, “Jim Dreyer’s extraordinary quests and his indomitable spirit serve as an inspiring example to all.”  Jim ‘The Shark’ Dreyer took another shot at the 65-mile lake on 4th September after his August attempt failed. To his dismay, even this attempt had to be aborted because of strong winds. Despite his stubbornness, the swimmer chose to return to safety because of his 2005 Lake Superior experience.

During an exclusive interview with Essentially Sports, Dreyer recalled about his adventure that lasted three days. He described his struggle to reach ashore and said, “On the 3rd day, I could finally see the shore. The adventure wasn’t over though. I hit a huge storm, 50mph winds, 15 ft waves, lightning striking all around me. And, it made getting into shore pretty difficult, even though I’d spotted the shore at that point, I lost sight of the shore when the storm hit. I ended up stranded, and when I finally made it, I was fighting against these rip currents coming into shore.” Despite being hit by nature’s fury, The Shark managed to find solid ground to cling onto.


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“I ended up on the side of a 100ft cliff in the middle of nowhere. My bones would still be out there if it wasn’t for a friend who left port in the storm looking for me. And found me, and picked me up from the side of the cliff,” said the Herculean swimmer. While help had arrived for him, Dreyer was almost unable to take it because of the energy drain. Instead, the human tugboat clung to a rock he was on despite his friend just yards away from reach.


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Eventual rescue from the vicious storm

Dreyer recalled that his friend asked him to swim over since the boat was unable to get near the cliff. However, three continuous days of swimming had exhausted Jim ‘The Shark’ Dreyer, who was clinging to a boulder in the middle of a storm. “This boulder that I’m trying to hold onto was the first solid object that I had under me in 3 days. And, after going 60 hours without sleep, you’re hallucinating, you’re seeing things and you’re not thinking straight. I thought, ‘I’m gonna hang onto this rock for the rest of my life!’” said Dreyer.


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Despite tormenting him for three days, Lake Superior decided to give a final parting gift to the human tugboat. “A huge wave washed me off and threw me away, and they pulled me on the boat.” The 60-year-old still remembers every detail of his ‘Superior’ encounter clearly and it helps him make better decisions. 

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Written by:

Ankit Singh


One take at a time

Ankit Singh is a pro writer for US Sports at Essentially Sports. This surfing enthusiast has kept his watchful eye on all things Kelly Slater. With his prior experience as a senior writer for popular blogs in the country, Ankit brings his attention to detail to the nuances of every turn, snap, 360, and alley-oop on the surfboard.
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Edited by:

Suman Varandani