Llewellyn attempts trans-Tahoe swim in support of friend’s spinal cord injury nonprofit FindingHUP
August 22, 2016
Ric Llewellyn had always wanted to swim across Lake Tahoe. He just needed the right motivation to attempt it.
Llewellyn, a one-time Tahoe resident that now lives in Bakersfield, California, will attempt to swim from Emerald Bay to Nevada Beach on Wednesday, Aug. 24. The 61-year-old is taking on the eight-and-a-half-mile swim from the lake's West to East shore in support of a nonprofit run by his friend Mark Bender.
"I wanted to help Mark out somehow and thought, 'I like to swim in the lake, it's definitely a huge challenge, and it's not something everyday outdoorsy people would even think to try to do,'" Llewellyn said.
Bender, who lives in Washington, started FindingHUP — a nonprofit organization that accumulates adaptive sports equipment for people with spinal cord injuries. He suffered a C5/C6 spinal cord injury himself while bodysurfing in Hawaii in 2013, and was an outdoors enthusiast prior to the accident.
"He created this foundation and he wanted to provide opportunities for victims of spinal cord injuries to get outdoors and do some things," Llewellyn said. "I want to help Mark help other people that are in his predicament and not lose hope about accessing the outdoors."
Llewellyn ran his first triathlon just more than a decade ago, and has participated in a number of endurance activities since. He started planning the eight-and-a-half-mile swim in Lake Tahoe last winter, and typically swam 4,000 yards four times per week — including once per week outside of a pool — along with running in preparation for the challenge.
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"It's a personal challenge that I want to try," Llewellyn said. "I think about swimming in Lake Tahoe all the time, and I like crazy, athletic endurance events like this."
According to Llewellyn, the water temperature and wind as the day goes on are two big factors for the swim. But the biggest factor is the psychological one that comes with swimming in a large body of water for such a long distance.
"Swimming in that big of a body of water, even though I have people with me, is really different," Llewellyn said. "There's no chance of touching the bottom and standing up. That's the thing that I'm focusing on most to overcome."
Llewellyn will have a team in the boat piloted by local Jim Greenwood that will help with sighting, nutrition and hydration. He plans to take off from the West Shore close to dawn and arrive on the East Shore around noon.