CLAY TOWNSHIP, Mich. — The Shark is in the water — and he will be for a while.
Long-distance swimmer Jim Dreyer, who calls himself “The Shark,” jumped into Lake St. Clair near the Michigan-Canada border today to begin what he hopes will be a 22-mile success story — all while hauling a ton of bricks.
The soon-to-be-50-year-old plans to come ashore 30 hours later on Tuesday afternoon at Detroit’s Belle Isle to greet fans, well-wishers and representatives of Habitat for Humanity, the charity that inspired Dreyer to undertake his latest swim.
A 22-mile swim across Lake St. Clair is like a dip in the water for a guy who has direct crossings of all five Great Lakes under his swim belt.
So to make it interesting, Dreyer is carrying two dinghies filled with 334 bricks. And he’s swimming solo without a support boat.
At a weight of six pounds per brick, the motivational speaker from Byron Center, Mich., is towing more than 2,000 pounds behind him. Dreyer calls it his “train of pain.”
After his crew of three loaded up the dinghies with bricks, food, drink and other essentials for the trip early today, Dreyer waded out into the waters off of the Clinton River Boat Club in Clay Township near Algonac.
He donned his wetsuit, took a group photo and the crew affixed the dinghies to Dreyer’s ankles. He then looked in the distance, gazing at the Renaissance Center towers that comprise General Motors’ headquarters.
“Next stop, Detroit,” he said, before hitting the water to the delight of the onlookers who had gathered to see him get started.
Dreyer is swimming with a GPS tracking device that will post his position online. It also comes equipped with a messaging system that allows him to communicate with the outside world.
At the touch of a button, Dreyer can send out three pre-programmed messages.
One lets his crew know he’s OK. A second tells them he’s not and to send a boat to his position. A third shows that he’s in a life-threatening situation and requires immediate assistance from the Coast Guard.
He’s been in tough situations before, overcoming high waves during his 60-mile crossing of Lake Superior and falling ill, vomiting repeatedly and dropping 20 pounds while swimming across Lake Huron.
He feels better about his chances for this swim.
Dreyer has been preparing since October, doing strength training, completing 20-mile swims and at one point towing a 6,000-pound boat in the water.
“I’m confident that if anyone on this planet can do this, it’s me,” Dreyer said with a smile.
Water temperatures are expected to remain in the 68- to 71-degree range, which pleased Dreyer, and he’s hoping the weather remains calm.
The holder of a number of world records for endurance swimming, Dreyer said he expects to set one this time around for longest distance swimming while towing a ton of bricks — a record that doesn’t currently exist.
“Nobody has ever pulled a ton of bricks any distance,” he said. “Pretty surprising, right?”
Records aside, Dreyer’s true motivation is Habitat for Humanity of Michigan, with whom he has helped fund building projects for up to 75 affiliates through his swim fundraising, called the Cornerstone Strength Swim Campaign.
Engraved commemorative bricks, including the bricks towed by Dreyer, are being sold to support the building project of the purchaser’s choice.
As for what’s next on Dreyer’s agenda following the “ton of bricks swim,” he’s not saying just yet.
“I’m always coming up with these crazy ideas,” he said.