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Scrapbook: Endurance Athlete to Attempt First-Ever Non-Stop Swim Around Lake Tahoe

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Sierra Club Scrapbook

June 06, 2012

Endurance Athlete to Attempt First-Ever Non-Stop Swim Around Lake Tahoe


Saying Jamie Patrick likes to swim is a little like saying Popeye likes spinach. The San Leandro, Ca., native began swimming at the age of seven and, as he puts it, "I haven't stopped since. Swimming and water are my passion—they've given me so much in life."

An all-American swimmer in high school, Patrick earned a full swimming scholarship to attend the University of Hawaii, and two years after graduating he clocked the 11th-fastest time ever recorded in the English Channel Relay Swim.


By day, Patrick is Sales Manager for Patrick & Co., the oldest office supply company in San Francisco, founded by his great-grandfather in 1873. When he's not in the office—where he is striving, among other things, to green the family business—he's usually with his wife Terry and 6-year-old daughter Grace. But he has also found the time to complete more than 100 triathlons, 15 Ironman competitions, three marathons, and he was named 2011 World Open Water Male Swimmer of the Year.


Patrick has by now swum all over the world, including in New Zealand, Brazil, Italy, Austria, Bermuda, Belize, Mexico, the Caribbean islands, Hawaii, and Tahiti. Closer to home, he recently completed a double crossing of Lake Tahoe—a 44-mile swim that took 25 hours of continuous swimming—and a 111-mile swim down the Sacramento River in northern California, below, that took 31 hours.


"I obviously had to stay up all night to complete those swims," he says, "but there comes a point where I get into a rhythm and push through the pain and the swimming actually gets easier. And there are times when it just gets magical and you really feel you become one with your environment. During the night I spent on the Sacramento, there were river otters swimming all around me, and egrets that seemed to be following me downriver in the moonlight.


"I'm not out primarily to set records," Patrick says, "I'm out for personal journeys." He has also decided to combine his extreme swimming with advocacy for causes he believes in.

His Sacramento River swim attracted more than 40,000 online viewers who followed the swim live through Patrick's website, and the event raised awareness and roughly $25,000 for an elementary school literacy program in Contra Costa County, where Patrick and his family live.

Now Patrick has his sights set on something even more ambitious: a non-stop swim of the 69-mile circumference of Lake Tahoe, a feat that he anticipates will take about 40 hours. To Patrick's knowledge, the undertaking he is calling the Tahoe 360 has never before been attempted, let alone completed.


"I think Tahoe is the most beautiful lake in the world," he says. "So when I was thinking about what cause I could raise money for with the Tahoe 360, clean water was a natural. And when I thought about who does work for clean water, the first thing that popped into my mind was the Sierra Club."

Hopping online, Patrick surfed to the Sierra Club's website and quickly found the Water Sentinels program. "I immediately knew this was the program I wanted to support," he says. "Not only do the Water Sentinels do cleanups, water-quality monitoring, and advocate for clean water, they get kids involved and get people outdoors. If people get out and do their own adventures, they'll be moved to protect the environment."

The Tahoe 360 will commence on August 31 at Tahoe City, on the northwest corner of the lake, and end at the same spot on September 2. Patrick plans to swim about 100 yards from shore, and he'll have a crew of between 15 and 20 people in support—some on the water and some on land—to take care of logistics like navigation, cooking, communication, on-water support, and medical assistance if necessary.


"All water-based support will be human-powered except one boat in case I need medical help," Patrick says. "Land-based support vehicles will all be hybrid or run on alternative fuels, and the University of Nevada at Reno has an electric bus that I hope to use. The crew will be responsible for picking up trash along the route, and all the crew's gear will be made of 100 percent post-consumer waste. We're doing our best to offset or reverse the carbon impacts of the event."

Patrick plans to adorn the support vehicles with Sierra Club banners, use the Water Sentinels logo on his wetsuit and other equipment, and all support crew will wear Water Sentinels t-shirts and caps, which will be available to members of the public at a Sierra Club booth in Tahoe City, as well as from the support vehicles as they circle the lake.

Food for the event will be organic and locally-sourced to the greatest extent possible, and Patrick will not get out of the water or stop swimming even to eat—he plans to stop and tread water every 20 minutes or so while a support boat pulls up alongside and he takes in a combination of solid food and liquid to keep him going.

As with the Sacramento River swim, viewers will be able to follow the Tahoe 360 through a live portal on Patrick's personal website and his Facebook site and make donations directly to the Water Sentinels program while they watch. Patrick stresses that every penny raised by the Tahoe 360 will go to the Water Sentinels program.

Between now and August 31, you can follow Patrick's blog as he trains and prepares for the Tahoe 360.



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