A local teen has returned home following a trip around Lake Winnipeg to raise awareness about water stewardship.

Alex Martin, a recent Westgate Mennonite Collegiate grad, returned earlier this month from his circumnavigation trip around Lake Winnipeg.

The trip, which was expected to take two months, only lasted half that time Martin says. He docked for the final time on August 3, 2018, after launching just over a month earlier on June 27.

On his trip, Martin, 18, was able to experience Lake Winnipeg in its entirety, from the south basin to the north.

"The south basin is kind of how a lot of people think of cottage country," the teen explained. "A lot of long, sand beaches... it's an interesting area because it's so close by to a lot of major cottage area, but many people haven't actually seen that area."

According to Martin, this lack of prior navigation meant maps he used during his trip in this area proved to be very inaccurate.

The north basin's landscape was comprised of less sand, and more cliff walls and mudslides. "I think that's a little more technically challenging as a sea kayaker," shared Martin.

One of the biggest parts of his experience on the lake, however, was the communities he encountered along the way. During his time in the south basin, Martin says he would come in contact with people almost every day.

"There's a lot more communities than people think there are... it was never too lonely down there, there was always someone to talk to."

The north basin was home as well to many welcoming communities. More than once, Martin found himself having lunch with individuals in their homes after being invited in for a break from his journey.

Sometimes, the teen says people would recognize him; other times, they would remember his sticker-covered kayak.

The teen concluded his trip on August 3, and already is seeing the fruits of his labour. Several schools and universities have requested that Martin visit, along with the Lake Winnipeg Foundation, and speak to students about both his trip and the need to protect the lake.

"There's a lot more communities than people think there are... it was never too lonely down there, there was always someone to talk to."

While all lakes need assistance in their care and maintenance, Martin says, his experience on Lake Winnipeg, he says, definitely showed him that the lake could use some help.

"There were days when it was definitely very, very bad," the kayaker explained of algae he encountered as he circumnavigated. "It smelled disgusting, you can't pump water very easily. On days like that when it was challenging, it definitely reaffirmed my belief [in] the importance of water stewardship."

Stories from the people he visited throughout his trip, too, about significant decreases in fishing over the last few years confirmed for Martin how crucial it has become to ensure that Lake Winnipeg is being properly cared for.

"A four per cent catch rate to what it used to be, that's fairly dramatic, and that is something that should be very concerning to people."

Now that he's seen the sights of Lake Winnipeg, Martin plans to spend the next year traveling and kayaking in areas of Canada, the United States, and Asia, before he continues on to study urban forestry at the University of British Columbia in fall of 2019.

"Basically I'm kayaking for a year," he laughed. "It'll be great."