We’ve been without signal for the first 8 days of Swim1000, my 7th journey of Expedition1000, a 1000-mile swim down the Lower Missouri River, accompanied by a team all of whom are paddling the full distance in a Mad River Canoe and by Lakeshore River Rover Stand Up Paddleboards.
Here’s a blog I wrote after two days on the river:
This is the biggest challenge I’ve ever taken on, bar none. Two days out from our launch point at Cedar Shore in Chamberlain, South Dakota, my body is sore all over. I feel nauseous. I’m exhausted. I’ve swum close to 11 miles and my team have paddled the same distance yet despite the aches and pains everyone is smiling. We have a real team here, and that’s why I’m not worried at all.
Seeing the final stages of Swim1000 come together in less than a week leaves me feeling something like a proud father. I’ve becoming used to taking trust falls - depending on the honesty and kindness of complete strangers - at the beginning of expeditions, but none more than this time. Jarett Bies and his wife Laura responded to an email I sent out two months ago asking for advice about the Missouri near Yankton and became our people on the ground. Jarett ran logistics, contacted media, set us up with further support up and downstream. Both he and Laura then opened up their delightful home to myself and the team as Ground Zero. Can you imagine letting 8 strangers into your home, let alone British ones preparing to embark on a huge endeavour? The team flew in jetlagged to the core. Jarett and Laura met them all and brought them home. Without them, the start of this journey would have been very different.
It hasn’t all been smooth sailing. A few sponsors let us down at the very last minute, leaving us without sleeping mats, a GPS and other basic items. But problems on these expeditions arise every day, we merely deal with them and move on.
Jessica of the Chamberlain Sun, Jim from Swenson Bros. Marine and Angela from the Cedar Shore Resort in Chamberlain lead a band of locals who have left the team in no doubt that human beings are intrinsically kind. From front page articles to taking receipt of our canoe and paddleboards, to organising a launch party and bringing supplies to our first night’s camp. Wow, strangers become friends fast in these situations.
A little highlight arrived in the form of Mark Kalch, my buddy from home and internationally river paddler who is currently descending the Missouri Mississippi to the Gulf. He bust a gut to reach Chamberlain in time for our launch party, so good for the team to feel part of a wider adventure community.
The journey ahead is a beautifully tough challenge. There is little to no current in the upper section of the river meaning our bodies need to condition fast to overcome a tremendously difficult first 170 miles or so. After that, once we reach Yankton Dam, the Missouri becomes a channel rather than an interconnected series of lakes, and then we have some assistance from the river.
Until then, it’s heads down. We’re exposed up here and high winds mean Day 3 of Swim1000 is one of rest. We’re camped in a small copse beside the river, the trees providing a little cover from a constant barrage of weather. The forecast says things will calm down tomorrow and I expect to be back in my Orca 3.8 by 7am, back to carving through water a mile wide, slowly strengthening my breast stroke, front crawl and back stroke while surrounded by four Lakeshore River Rover paddleboards and a Mad River canoe.
I’m so proud of my team. Emily, Annabel, Ness, Sarah, David, Ben and Miguel - who leaves us early tomorrow and is celebrating is birthday today - give of all the signs of being lifelong friends. After a long day on the water yesterday, battling big waves and high headwinds, they reached the bank without complaint and proceeded to set up camp and cook dinner in time for my arrival an hour later. I don’t get into gear this quickly when travelling by myself and it’s a testament to everyone involved that we even made it to the start line, let alone have become so tightly knit so fast.
From here, we have 989 miles to St Louis. As Doug the local farmer said to us this morning when he came across our campsite, ‘This is one hell of a trip’.
Meet the team involved in the Swim1000 Missouri River Expedition this Summer.
This is no ordinary expedition, everyone involved will be paddling 1000 miles alongside Dave as he swims the Lower Missouri, towing and pushing his gear on a raft.
Dave Cornthwaite - The Guy in the Water
Dave has tried his hand at many an endurance activity in the past but before deciding on this expedition the furthest distance he had ever swum was from one end of a pool to the other. A 25m pool. Dave will be managing the expedition as well as swimming 1000 miles and is most excited about seeing the world from two inches above the surface for 50 days.
> Meet Dave - Follow him on Twitter
David Zaple - Medical Chief
On the verge of becoming a registered paramedic David can cook to an edible standard and threatens a sense of humour even cornier than the other Dave’s. With a good background in travel David’s experience in both endurance and fundraising events compliment his chosen profession. As the team’s medical specialist his tent will almost certainly bear a red cross.
> Meet David - Follow him on Twitter
Vanessa - Social Media Guru
Well travelled, creative and ready to escape the city, Ness will be heavily involved in marketing, social media, PR and stills photography on the Missouri. A strong background in charitable fundraising and developing sustainable business models for entrepreneurs means she’ll be involved in pulling together the project from all angles.
> Meet Ness - Follow her on Twitter
Ben - Trainer and Nutrition Chief
Just qualified as a personal trainer and with a background in bodybuilding and sports nutrition, Ben’s skills are fastened together by experience in an endurance expedition of his own. In 2008 Ben broke Dave C’s length of Britain skateboarding record at the age of 18. No doubt he’ll be swimming the Missouri in 49 days soon after this expedition!
> Meet Ben
Annabel - Mrs Motivator
Eternally positive, Annabel - or you can call her Annie, Bella (don’t even think about it), or ‘that one’ - is the sense of humour department in the team. Next year she’s planning on rowing across the Pacific Ocean so 1000 miles of paddling will be super practice for her, as will being an integral part of the day-to-day running of the expedition.
> Meet Annabel - Follow her on Twitter
Sarah - Fundraising Boss
If life were a bull Sarah would be holding its horns and riding the blimmin’ thing like you wouldn’t believe. Having spent two years of her early thirties kicking breast cancer out of the park Sarah will be implementing the Expedition’s fundraising strategy, ensuring we raise as much money as possible for breast cancer awareness charity CoppaFeel!
> Meet Sarah - Follow her on Twitter
Louisa Currie - Mrs Media
Lou will be joining us for the second half of the expedition and will use her experience as a journalist for the BBC to maximise the media coverage an expedition like this deserves. She’s done a bit of filming, too, so keep an eye out for the video blogs!
> Meet Louisa - Follow her on Twitter
Em Bell - Blog Queen
Last but not least is Ms Bell. She was born during an earthquake on a beach in Chile and has barely sat down since. A professional journalist and blogger, you’ll love Em’s writing throughout the journey.
> Meet Em - Follow her on Twitter
And finally, how did Dave convince this merry bank of soon-to-be paddlers to join him? Well, it took one video…