A 1000-mile Swim Down the Missouri River

Written by: Macca Sherifi

An Interview with Dave Cornthwaite

Back in July we interviewed adventurer and all-round-nice-guy Dave Cornthwaite; he was the one attempting to swim 1,000 miles down the Missouri River. Well, a few months down the line and he’s completed the challenge.

Starting on August 10th, Dave jumped into the Missouri River at Chamberlain, South Dakota, and began swimming towards St Louis, Missouri. However, thinking that the swim would be a stroll in the park, Dave decided to tow his gear behind him on a carbon fibre raft to make it a little harder.

This time round Dave had a team with him. Six members paddled alongside him on Lakeshore SUP boards and in a Mad River canoe, making it one of the most social expeditions ever undertaken.

Before the expedition Dave had not swum more than 300 metres in one go, so the going was a little slow at first. It took one month – half of the expedition’s allotted time – to cover the first 180 miles. However, Dave soon got the hang of it and the team took just one more month to cover the remaining 820 miles.

The swim was a part of his project Expedition1000. Dave is planning to undertake 25 separate journeys of 1,000 miles, each journey using a different form of non-motorised transport. So far he’s completed seven.

We thought we’d catch up with Dave to see what this challenge was like.

What was the hardest thing about Swim1000?

Learning how to swim. I’d barely done it before jumping into the river so it took a little while to get the breathing right.

Do you think it was your hardest challenge yet?

Without question. Swimming uses every muscle in the body, the pressures on one’s fitness and mentally are incredible.

How did the Americans react to this challenge?

They typically thought I was crazy, but upon seeing my weight loss I wouldn’t be surprised if ‘Swim1000’ became a readily available diet plan.

Dave swimming down the Missouri River

Did you meet anyone on the road that you thought “man, you’re really cool…”

I was on a river, so no! We met hundreds of cool folks, it wouldn’t be fair to narrow it down, although there was this family called The Gerlachs who were brilliantly supportive. Super cool people.

Was it good having the guys along with you?

I had a team on this one as opposed to my usual solo missions. It wasn’t always easy but they got me through to the end. A couple of lifelong friends out of this one, for sure.

Did you feel you had to look after them at all? Or did they look after you?

A bit of both. Although after swimming for ten hours a day I wasn’t much use to anyone. Very difficult dealing with team issues or personal needs when you can barely walk.

Dave and the team

I couldn’t help but notice you had some very attractive girls with you – was that a happy coincidence or your doing?

Nice of you to notice! I had over 60 applicants for the team and rest assured there were some attractive girls who were rejected. Everyone made the team based on merit, skills and ability to last the course.

Do you think you’ll invite people on to all of your other expeditions or are you looking forward to getting back to basics?

I’ll go solo on the next one I think, but any teams in the future will be much smaller.

Who came up with the “#iamyou” slogan?

A cool bunch of folks from the Hare Meets Tortoise Production company. They recognised that I’m just a normal chap who is doing all this stuff based on a decision rather than inherited wealth or an outstanding ability. Great concept.

And your YouTube videos – who’s been cutting them together?

I do them all! Travelling like this offers up new stories every day, I love sharing them in different ways and video is one of my favourite mediums.

Do you think social media is going to play a bigger part in future expeditions?

It’s already imperative for adventurers trying to get by full-time, you’re already seeing people who’ve achieved huge things defining themselves by ‘being the first to tweet from the summit of Everest’ or ‘the first to FourSquare from the North Pole’ so I guess it’s important to some.

Have you decided what the next expedition’s going to be?

No. I’m knackered. In the last year I’ve completed four expeditions and a couple of tours so I’m taking some time off to write three books, recollect myself and when that’s all done I’ll push the button on the next journey.

Just your average day on the Missouri River

And a few extra fun questions:

Do you wax your legs?

Are you joking?!

Did you ever grease yourself up on Swim1000?

Never. Orca 3.8 wetsuit all the way.

What are the benefits of being ginger?

The innate self-strength that comes from being bullied every day tends to make gingers adults not to be doubted!

What’s your favourite pie?

Steak and Ale.


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