After pre-swim training in Mullumbimby, Hunter Helmick has claimed a world record as the first American to swim 2,412 kilometres of the Murray River.
Hunter left Corryong, Victoria, on November 5 with his father Eric swimming at his side and brother Tuck as boat captain.
The father-son team undertook the 120-day staged swim to inspire the youth of Australia and bring awareness to the high rate of suicide among the younger generation.
On average Hunter maintained a stroke rate of 55 per minute travelling at speeds of 3.5–4km per hour. The number of freestyle strokes he took exceeded 1,728,000.
He swam an average of five hours every day, often swimming 8–10 hours in wind, rain and 40-degree heat. Water temperatures fluctuated over 12–27 degrees.
Hunter wore through two wetsuits and was fortunate to only have minor chafing on his back and shoulders midway through the swim.
Hunter started out with brown hair and finished blond owing to the number of days in the sun.
His toenails turned orange from the minerals in the water and he suffered from a series of severe ear infections.
The team swam in the tail-end of massive flooding across Australia after an eight-year drought.
During the swim they encountered everything from venomous snakes to whirlpools, snags, wind, lightning, and extreme fatigue.
‘An endurance swim was not really my life’s dream,’ Hunter said. ‘In fact, the most I had ever swum before this journey was 6km. 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,’ he said.
Eric (55) swam 732km of the Murray.
The family is from Idaho Springs, Colorado, in the United States.