Swimmers bisect Tahoe during two-day fundraiser to support local charities | NevadaAppeal.com

Swimmers bisect Tahoe during two-day fundraiser to support local charities

Jen Schmidt
Nevada Appeal News Service

When the six men prepared to enter the cold waters of Lake Tahoe at Incline Beach, they knew they wouldn’t feel dry land again for 22 miles and it would be in Emerald Bay.

As if swimming the longest stretch of Tahoe on Saturday wasn’t difficult enough with the chilly water and inevitably windy afternoons, the brave swimmers of Swim Anything made it their goal to return – by water – to Incline Beach on Sunday, putting their journey at an unprecedented 44 miles in two days

But it’s worth it, because their frigid swim will provide much needed support to local charities.

With donations coming mostly from family and friends, the swimmers had already raised $4,000 by Saturday morning when they set out. Their goal is to total $10,000 for the National Brain Tumor Foundation and the League to Save Lake Tahoe.

Ken Wallace, Matt and John Evans, Ralph Fallant, Earl Walton and Marty Mathies have all been swimming since they were children.

Last year the Evans brothers swam the 72-mile perimeter of the lake to raise more than $5,000 for the Pet Network Animal Shelter and the League to Save Lake Tahoe. The cold water requires swimmers to switch out about every 15 minutes, so “it was not as difficult as we had expected, but it was still pretty rough going,” John said.

This year the team, swimming two at a time across the 22-mile stretch, took four inflatable kayaks, provided by their sponsor, Sea Eagle, to carry their camping gear and themselves across the lake when they weren’t in the water. A waterproof GPS, underwater swiMP3 players and some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were among the other essentials they took with them.

“It’s a challenge, and the causes we’re doing it for are good causes themselves,” John said.

Swimmer Ralph Fallant joked that his company, Akeena Solar, agreed to donate $500 if he made it the whole way, and $2,000 if he drowned in the process.

For New Yorker Earl Walton, who saw his first glimpse of the lake only a few days before the swim, this was an incredible opportunity. Walton had trained and coached together with Ken Wallace, another teammate, for years, and jumped at the chance.

“My reaction was ‘I get to swim across Lake Tahoe? Sure!’ I was kind of in awe by it. You couldn’t ask for a better place to swim, or a better reason to get up in the morning and swim,” he said.

The team believes in swimming for a cause and will likely put together more events in the coming years.

Said Michael Logsdon, development manager of special events for National Brain Tumor Foundation, “What these young men have done in support of the National Brain Tumor Foundation is nothing short of remarkable. The National Brain Tumor Foundation is honored to work with the Swim Anywhere team.”

After 22 hours of swimming and kayaking, the team returned to Incline Beach late Sunday afternoon.

“The Lake Tahoe Double Diagonal was really hard, in spite of almost ideal weather,” said Matt, describing the blisters, wetsuit rash, sunburn, and of course, sore arms and shoulders. “There were times – such as Saturday morning – when the surface of the lake was flat and perfect, which energized the swimmers. There were other times, such as the last five miles into Emerald Bay, when we were swimming and kayaking directly into a strong wind and whitecaps, which did the opposite. We could barely stand up Saturday night, and we were in our sleeping bags by about 8:30 p.m.”

Regardless of their aching bodies and blistered hands, the team kept its strong will to the very end. They are about half way to their goal of $10,000 now, and are still taking donations on their Web site, http://www.swimanything.com.

“Even as we were completing the last few miles on Sunday, tired and sore, we were all happy to be out there taking on the challenge,” said Matt. “Our bodies were giving out, but I think we all would have wanted to swim even farther.”