KELOWNA – An American man will spend up to 40 hours in Okanagan Lake next week, swimming from Vernon to Penticton in an attempt to set a new world record.
The extreme distance swim will take place over two days starting Monday morning, July 25. If it goes according to plan, it could land Adam Ellenstein in the Guinness Book of World Records and raise more than $100,000 for Parkinson’s research.
“In terms of distance this far surpasses the longest swim I’ve ever done,” he says. “Last year I swam across Lake Winnipeg, 18 miles, and when I finished that I really felt like I could turn around and go back. I was excited about that.”
When asked why he chose the Okanagan, Ellenstein, who has lived in Michigan for the last decade, says he’s wanted to come back to Kelowna ever since his first visit two years ago when he participated in an Ultra Man event.
“I just fell in love with it the people energy and landscape,” he says. “It was first on my list of places (to set a record) and we’ll be staying around for a few days afterwards.”
Swimming with Ellenstein on the first day will be the woman who inspired him to brave 18 Celsius waters for two straight days.
“My aunt was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and she was told exercise is critical,” he says. “She’s been training four or five months for this and she’s going to swim part of the lake with me.”
And she won’t be the only one in the water with him those two days. A support team of around 16 will be with him for all 105 kilometres as well as hundreds of supporters around the world.
“We have encouraged everybody in our community… to swim along in their local pool on Sunday, Monday or Tuesday and post videos or messages to our Facebook page,” Ellenstein’s wife Amelia says. “We have swimmers as far as Zanzibar and Denmark and all messages will be relayed (to Adam) during the swim by the crew.”
The call to action, she says, serves three purposes. To raise awareness of the importance of exercise for those with the disease, a way to raise funds for research and to keep Ellenstein motivated during the challenge.
“Okanagan certainly is a long lake,” he says. “I have no experience with this kind of endurance event. I’ve been up for that long but not in the water that long. It will be less of a physical challenge and more of a mental one, I think. Having photos and videos from around the world will re-energize me.”
Ellenstein plans to swim the entire distance with only brief stops every hour to rehydrate with warm fluids and check in with his support crew.
“The goal is to not get out of the water,” he says.
A swim that long is not without its dangers and Ellenstein admits there are several variables that could potentially stand in his way.
“Summer is a busy time on Okanagan Lake so that will be one thing the crew will be mindful of,” he says. “You never know what people are thinking. And the weather is unpredictable. If we get a storm or anything we’ll just plow through as best as possible.”
Normally by this time of year the lake has warmed up to at least the low 20s, however a cooler past few months mean the surface of the lake will be only around 18 C. Add the darkness of the night portion of the swim and anything is possible.
“When you’re in the water for that period of time you certainly have to be aware of hypothermia,” he says. “And I’ve done some training swims at night. Hopefully the skies will be clear and we’ll have some stars.”
Ellenstein has already exceeded his fundraising goal of $10,000 and the Davis Finney Foundation expects to use the event to raise another $95,000. After an adjudicator reviews the evidence of the swim he may be given a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.
To make a donation visit the David Finney Foundation website. To track Ellenstein’s progress during the swim visit their Facebook event page.
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