Meet the man who will swim across the Pacific

By swimming the Pacific using just his own power, Ben Lecomte is doing his bit to change the world.
By Romuald Clariond

Ben Lecomte was the first man to swim across the Atlantic Ocean without a kick board in 1998. In 2015, the French-born long distance swimmer wants to reach the next level. Ben wants to swim from Tokyo to San Francisco, from July 'til December, eight hours a day, around 8000km. Here is his crazy plan...

More: This guy ran across America just like Forrest Gump

Check out the teaser for his epic swim

© Ben Garrett

So, you'll swim from Tokyo to San Francisco?
Yes, that's the plan! This should take five months. A boat is going to be there all along the swim. I will swim eight hours a day, and the rest of the time I will be on the boat to eat and sleep. We’re going from Tokyo to San Francisco because of the currents – the Kuroshio and then the North Pacific – that push towards the United States. There will also be a team of routers on the continent who will analyse satellite pictures and tell us exactly where the current is, the kind of weather we’ll have and so on. So it’s not only one person swimming alone, but there’s a whole team around.

Your boat will be a bit special as well...
Yes, it’s a 24m boat built back in 1940. All made of wood, that has initially been built for fishing and has been reconditioned for different kinds of use. Its story is in the spirit of what we defend, which is recycling to use things cleverly.

Why such a challenge?
I've swum in rivers or lakes or sea, since I was very young. The first swim I did was to collect funds for research against cancer, as my dad died of a cancer. When he was suffering it, I realised I could regret not following my dreams to make them happen. Somehow, seeing my father suffering kicked my ass to go beyond my limits and make my dreams come true.

How do you keep swimming for so long?
I’ve always been swimming. I love it. But as I want to keep the taste for it, I also do a lot of running and cycling for my training. For endurance. But the big difference to pool swimmers, for example, is I don’t swim fast. I have a suit, flippers and snorkel, so I don’t have to turn my head all the time to breathe. Neither to see where the boat is as it pulls a line under water, with different colours that let me know if I’m forward of backward. So I don’t have to put my head up, which would already consume a lot of energy. And swimming with flippers, it multiplies the force of the biggest muscles of the body, that are in legs. Whereas when you swim without these, it all has to come from shoulders and arms.

What would a week's training look like?
I’m training three to five hours a day, five to six days a week. It depends on whether I have to travel and my schedule, but it’s generally what I do.

But in this kind of thing, what is even more important than physical condition is mental condition. When I swim, if you consider the speed, I wouldn’t be a runner but someone who walks very fast. But the difficulty is to repeat this for hours, days and months. When you look at very long things that have been done, people are around 40 or even 50 years old. Because when you get older, you lose power, speed, but you don’t lose that much endurance. And on the psychological and mental side of things, you become better. Look at Pat Farmer, he’s been running for 11 months from the North Pole to South Pole, with the equivalent of two marathons a day, and he was 49. It’s a lot about mental strength.

When science meets adventure

What's your goal with this challenge?
Today, I am a father. I have two children and their future is very important to me. So I try to use my passion to make people realise how important it is to change our daily life habits to save the environment and our planet.

So you swim to save the planet?
The swim itself is not the goal. The guy swimming from Tokyo to San Francisco is not the goal. My goal is to bring the maximum amount of people to follow the event to understand the negative impact we have on our oceans.

How can we follow you ?
Here we’re going to have a live stream, and we’ll discuss and interact with the followers from the boat as it happens. Not only us on the boat, but also experts on several continents will take part in the talks.

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