Hunter Helmick completed his goal to become the first American to complete a stage swim along the River Murray, Australia’s longest river. He swam 2,412 km over 120 days.
He left Corryong, Victoria on November 5th with his father, Eric Helmick swimming at his side while 17-year-old brother Tuck Helmick served as their boat captain.
“We undertook the journey to inspire the youth of Australia and bring awareness to the high rate of suicide among the younger generation.”
On average, the 25-year-old Hunter maintained a stroke rate of 55 strokes per minute traveling at speeds of 3.5 – 4 km an hour, swimming an average of 5 hours every day, often swimming 8 – 10 hours in wind, rain and 40°C heat. Water temperatures fluctuated from 12°C to 27°C.
During the 4-month stage swim, Hunter lost 13 pounds while wearing through two wetsuits. His toenails turned orange from the minerals in the water and he suffered from a series of severe ear infections. “During the swim, we encountered everything from venomous snakes to whirlpools, snags, wind, lightning, and extreme fatigue. An endurance swim was not really my life’s dream. In fact, the most I had ever swum before this journey was 6 km. But doing something epic that inspires others to live big, there’s a legacy worth leaving behind.
Inspiration brings hope. Hope is the greatest cure for depression and suicide. So we’re doing something epic. In the process, youth and communities are finding hope – believing anything might be possible.”
His 55-year-old father Eric swam 732 km while the trio were joined by escort team members from around the world. Eric stopped swimming daily in order to manage the logistical aspects of the journey. “We sold everything, including our home – and travelled halfway around the world to inspire the youth of Australia,” explained Eric. “There was not always access to the shore crew which made the journey much more difficult.”
Hunter plans to head back up the river in order to interview youth for their documentary, Take Your Dream, which they hope to release within the coming year detailing their journey down the Mighty Murray.
Two people have swum the River Murray prior to the Helmick’s swim. In 1993, Graham Middleton of Corryong, Australia swam 2,336 over 138 consecutive days. In 2000, Australian professional marathon swimmer Tammy Van Wisse spent 106 days stage swimming 2,438 km along the River Murray.
The Murray rises in the Australian Alps, draining the western side of Australia’s highest mountains, and then meanders across Australia’s inland plains, forming the border between the states of New South Wales and Victoria as it flows to the northwest into South Australia. It turns south at Morgan for its final 315 km, reaching the ocean at Lake Alexandrina.
Team Help! shown from left to right: Tuck Helmick, Terry Helmick, Eric Helmick, Hunter Helmick, Cydney Simpson, Laura Ronalds (front).
Hunter and Eric Helmick swim the last 12 km from the Goolwa pier accompanied by Tuck piloting the boat and Cydney Simpson on kayak.
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