Going the Distance; UTA Grad to Swim Pacific

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The Pacific Ocean spans 61 million square miles, spawns temperatures from freezing to 86 degrees, and is home to more than 100 ports as well as thousands of varieties of marine life.

And beginning in April, it will also be the temporary home of long-distance swimmer Ben Lecomte, a father of two and graduate of UT-Arlington.

The 44-year-old Lecomte, who immigrated to the U.S. from France in the early 1990s, intends to become the first person to swim the Pacific Ocean, an anticipated six-month journey from Tokyo to San Francisco. The event is the centerpiece of a campaign to benefit The Longest Swim Foundation, Lecomte’s start-up non-profit funding cancer research and awareness.

“I’ll swim around eight hours per day, with a support boat following me,” said Lecomte, a Grand Prairie resident. “The boat comes to pick me up where I stop. The next day, I do it again.”

You might say Lecomte is the Apa Sherpa of the swim world.  In 1998, he successfully swam the Atlantic Ocean without the aid of a flotation device, and is widely credited with being the first person to do so. The epic journey from Hyannis, MA, to France lasted 73 days.

“I have always liked open waters,” he said, “as opposed to competition swimming in a pool. I like it because it’s not a controlled environment. You’ve got winds, the temperature of the water—everything is always changing. You have the opportunity to go to many different places, and they’re all going to be different.”

Although his first cross-ocean swim included shark and jellyfish encounters, he says “it’s shaping up to be a more interesting swim this time.” Doug Stanley, a long-time producer of the famed “Deadliest Catch” Discovery Channel program, will be there gathering footage for a documentary series.

Lecomte will wear a special microchip device allowing him to transmit information to people on land, which means his thousands of Twitter and Facebook fans can follow his daily journey.

Lecomte’s first swimming coach, his now-deceased father, was his inspiration to take on two oceans and start a cancer foundation.

“His passing gave me the extreme motivation to challenge myself,” Lecomte explained. “I saw that life was short, and you have to follow your dreams.

“I see the event as a platform for raising awareness for cancer research, and for people who have been affected by cancer to share their stories, and to ask each other for help,” he added.

“We all have our ‘longest swim,’ whether it’s something like this, cancer, or losing 40 pounds,” he said. “As I go through this, I want to have interaction with people who can share their stories about the goals they are trying to achieve, about the processes they use to stay focused and motivated. I want to hear about their journeys, too.”