SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — After trying similar feats with a kayak and skateboard, British adventurer Dave Cornthwaite turns his attention to swimming Friday as he embarks on a 1,000-mile journey down the Missouri River that will take him from Chamberlain, S.D., to St. Louis.
"I wouldn't say I'm nervous at all. We've prepared really well. I'm kind of used to taking on these challenges and for everybody around me to consider me mad and tell me I'm going to die and all these things," Cornthwaite said by phone Thursday as he looked out at the river in Chamberlain, a day before the swim begins.
A team of seven will be paddleboarding alongside Cornthwaite as he swims down the river, averaging about 20 miles a day, and posting to Twitter and Facebook along the way.
"I basically want to open up this experience we're all doing and just break it down. Sure it's hard, but it's something that everybody can do if they want to," he said.
Cornthwaite is used to pushing himself. While he doesn't consider himself an endurance athlete, the 32-year-old isn't a couch potato by any means.
His latest quest is part of Expedition1000, a project to complete 25 1,000-mile journeys using non-motorized transport. The goal of the project is to raise 1 million pounds, or about $1.5 million, for the AV Foundation, an organization that supports rural schools in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and CoppaFeel, a breast cancer awareness charity.
Cornthwaite's journey to adventurer started seven years ago at the age of 25, when he woke one morning, looked around and realized that although he had everything he should to be happy, he wasn't.
"I had everything I was supposed to have on paper as an adult — like a well-paid job, a long term partner, a house and a cat. I wasn't really happy with any of it, apart from the cat. I was just miserable," Cornthwaite said.
So he went snowboarding and skateboarding and realized that his perspective on the world had completely changed, simply by the way he was viewing it.
Cornthwaite quit his job and made a goal to skateboard farther than anyone else. He skated the length of Britain in 2006, then the length of Australia in 2007.
And now, he's taking on a new adventure. For the next 50 or so days, Cornthwaite will be swimming six to eight hours every day, waking early to try to get in as many miles as possible before the wind picks up around 10 a.m. He'll also give talks about his charities and the power of a positive attitude. He and his team will camp out at night along the river.
And why the Missouri for his latest river excursion?
"The Missouri has a little bit of flow to it, but I love traveling in the center or America. The people here are just so friendly and supportive, and the geography. too. It's just a marvelous place to travel," he said.