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Photo: Ben Lecomte


The Inertia

In 1998, Ben Lecomte swam across the Atlantic Ocean. Shortly after, he told Oprah Winfrey — yes, Oprah Winfrey — his first words when finally touching land and completing the swim were “Never again.” The swim had taken him 73 days, starting in Cape Cod and ending on the shores of France, spanning a total of 3,700 miles. So “never again” seems like it’d be a pretty reasonable way to wrap the whole thing up. Besides, if you swam across the Atlantic, who would one-up you?

If your name is Ben Lecomte, the answer to that question is “Ben Lecomte.” Apparently, not too long after that 1998 swim (and the Oprah cameo), Lecomte forgot those first moments on dry land and decided he was, in fact, going to go a little bigger. And so for the past 20 years, he’s been working toward becoming the first person to ever swim across the Pacific Ocean. This time, he’s facing approximately six months of kicking and paddling over more than 5,500 miles.

Apparently, the 1998 swim was never verified by the Guinness Book of World Records because Lecomte’s boat would drift off course during breaks and he didn’t start each new swim from the exact point he’d started. For this swim, he’ll be accompanied by a nearly 70-foot sailboat with a smaller motorboat or kayak leading him on an exact course from Choshi, Japan, to San Francisco, California. He’ll swim eight hours a day with a goal of covering 40 miles before getting his eight hours of sleep and recovery time, which includes eating about 8,000 calories worth of canned and freeze-dried foods.

He’s not doing it all completely for ego, though. Lecomte has partnered with more than a dozen research organizations, like NASA, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to collect samples of water along the journey, study all the trash he’ll be swimming through, and examine how the prolonged exposure will affect him. “If it’s just swimming for pleasure, that’s limited,” he said about the scientific aspects of the swim. “I need to have greater purpose and a bigger vision.”

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For his own sake, at least this time there’s no bigger swimming pool to find once this one’s crossed off the list.


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