Deborah Ferguson, NBC 5 News
A Frenchman turned Texan will soon attempt to swim the Pacific Ocean -- he's already crossed the Atlantic.
Ben Lecomte of Grand Prairie is like the guy next door. He's a husband, father of two, with a passion to swim.
"It was about, when I was about 5-years-old when my father taught me to swim in the ocean, " smiled Lecomte. "I was hooked right there."
The boy who grew up hooked on the ocean later left his native France for America. He found his
way to Arlington, graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington with a degree in architecture and now lives in Grand Prairie with his wife, their daughter and son.
His love of the ocean and swimming are still with him. It's possible you'll see Lecomte swimming in Joe Pool Lake or in the pool at the gym.
These daily swims, though, are just the training ground for what he'll do in May. Lecomte will attempt to swim 5,550 miles across the Pacific Ocean. No human has ever done this.
"I never look at it as the entire distance. I cannot wrap my brain around it -- 5,500 miles? No," he explains. "But I know I can swim an hour, then another hour."
Ben knows this because he did it before. On Sept. 25, 1998, Lecomte became the first man to swim across the Atlantic Ocean. He swam 3,700 miles from Hyannis, Mass., to Quiberon, France in memory of his dad who'd died of cancer.
Now 14 years later and at the age of 44, he wants to attempt what he describes as "The Longest
Swim". This time he said, it's about inspiring others to do more than they think they can.
"For me, it's an opportunity to inspire people to do something they've never done before. To get out of their comfort zone and be proactive," Lecomte said. "It's to be happy. I know how I feel when I live my passion. And I want to be able to to share that passion and drive to inspire other people."
Richard Stewart, the manager at the fitness club where Lecomte trains, said, "When I look at him, I
see what can be done with commitment, passion. And if you just take it a day at a time and stick
to it, they sky's the limit."
Lecomte trains about six hours a day with a routine that includes cycling, runnning and swimming -- exercises that will build up his endurance. He swims two to three hours a day at the club.
Stewart admits hardly anyone there knew about Ben's goal before NBC 5 reported on it.
"He comes in, does his thing. He doesn't talk about it. You meet this guy, and he's humble. He's
unassuming," Stewart described. "If you came in and saw him swimming, you would never know he swam the Atlantic and is about to swim the Pacific. Amazing!"
Just as he did in 73 days across the Atlantic, Lecomte will swim eight hours a day in the Pacific. This time, he predicts it will take him five to six months, though he'll approach it one hour at a time and let his body guide him.
"I have to be very flexible, that's the rule," Lecomte said. "Be flexible and follow what my body needs at the time."
A crew from California-based Ridgline Entertainment will be on a support boat to film every stroke while the world watches through social media. Goggles with special eyewear and speech recogition software will let him remotely access a computer on the boat so he can read and respond to messages while he swims.
"You'll be able to log onto our Facebook screen and watch as this is happening in live time," explained executive producer Ken Ferrari. "There's a shark coming, they'll be able to see it. They'll text me, say, 'Hey, Ben, have you seen the shadow in the back?' And I will be able to see that," added Lecomte.
Sharks, jellyfish, hypothermia, the current and consuming 8,000 calories a day to keep up his 140-pound weight are just some of the challenges Lecomte will face. He also won't see his wife, daughter and son for five to six months.
"It's a difficult discussion," Lecomte told NBC 5. "It's difficult for them and I'm very blessed to have a wife who understands it's important for me to live my passion to feel complete. They know it's who I am. They know it's part of our life. And we have other routines to take care of also. It's like going to work, and that's my work."
Lecomte admits he's afraid but quickly dismisses it. It's not what's in the ocean he fears most.
"Not be able to live your passion. that's what I fear the most."
A 5,500-mile swim, so the Frenchman turned Texan can live his passion. It sounds crazy, yet somehow "The Longest Swim" is also very American: to dream big then make it happen.