San Diego man to swim Lake Tahoe |

San Diego man to swim Lake Tahoe

Steve Yingling

Tom Hecker knows from experience what the afternoon winds can do on Lake Tahoe.

The long-distance swimmer aborted a swim across Lake Tahoe last year when the winds kicked up to 35 mph.

Naturally, the 56-year-old San Diego man wants to avoid the possibility of those fierce winds when he attempts to swim the length of Lake Tahoe on Monday and Tuesday.

Consequently, Hecker will leave Camp Richardson at 10 p.m. on Monday night and hopes to arrive in Incline Village by noon the next day.

“You always have second thoughts when you’re going into something like this. I’ve done 20 milers and made them and tried them and not made them,” he said. “I just hope my preparation is correct and hopefully the lake will go easy on me.”

Hecker has little doubt about his conditioning. Only six weeks ago he completed a 28-mile marathon swim around Manhattan Island. He swam 18 to 24 miles per week in the Pacific Ocean and complemented that training with two pool swims per week.

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So he’s ready to go.

Lake Tahoe is fourth on his checklist of major swims he wants to accomplish in the next few years. He’s already conquered the English Channel (2005), Gibraltar Straits (2006) and, of course, Manhattan Island. If all goes well in his quest to swim Lake Tahoe, he’ll attempt to swim from Catalina Island to the mainland next summer and cap his adventure by swimming the Cook Strait between the north and south islands of New Zealand.

“I hope I’m not doing this one too soon,” said Hecker, who arrived earlier in the week to prepare for the 22.1-mile swim. “A mile here in this water kills you. Once I got over the first 15 minutes, I was OK. It just sucks wind out of you.”

Formerly a runner, Hecker took up marathon swimming when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament playing soccer.

“I had knee surgery and surgeon told me I couldn’t run anymore,” Hecker said.

If Hecker is successful, he will become the 13th known person to swim from one end of Lake Tahoe to the other.