River Journey

A swimmer from England, Dave Cornthwaite, was swimming 1,000 miles down the Missouri River to help raise money for a breast cancer charity, Coppafeel. Paddling behind him is one of his team members. Missourian Photo.

About 930 miles into a 1,000-mile swim down the Missouri River, Dave Cornthwaite of Shipston, England, rested on the shore of the Missouri River in Washington.

Cornthwaite, with team members Emily Bell, Ben Stiff and Vanessa Knight, was waiting for a few paddlers to join him on the last leg of his journey, which ended Saturday, Oct. 6, at the St. Louis Arch.

The team began their journey in Chamberland, S.D., on Aug. 10. Cornthwaite, who is the only person swimming, is trying to raise funds and awareness for the breast cancer charity Coppafeel.

“We also want to spread the positive word of adventure,” he said.


Breast cancer hits close to home for Cornthwaite, whose friend was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer when she was just 23 years old. That friend, Kris Hallenga, formed the charity.

The team’s goal for the 1,000-mile journey is to raise $150,000. About $10,000 has been raised so far.

“We will continue doing endurance journeys until we reach our goal,” Cornthwaite said. “We’ve got a huge distance to go.”

To keep expenses down, Cornthwaite’s team are the only people who travel with him. The team paddles, as opposed to using boats with motors, while Cornthwaite swims. The team is on the river for about 12 hours each day and camps at night.

Ultimately, Cornthwaite’s goal is to complete 25 journeys and raise 1 million British pounds, or $1.5 million U.S. dollars to donate to Coppafeel.

“This is a very good message. It’s a cause that affects everybody,” he said. “The idea is about making the most out of life.”

During the trip, Cornthwaite faced storms, high winds and a lot of debris in the river. However, he said overall, the swim had been positive.

“Being immersed in water all day, every day — I’ve seen the world from a completely new view,” he said. “I’ve found the Missouri River incredibly placid and slow moving. It’s been an absolute joy to swim in.”

The current of the river changes with the seasons. Now, the Missouri River is moving at about two to 2 1/2 miles per hour.

This is Cornthwaite’s seventh journey. On an earlier journey, he completed a 2,400-mile stand-up paddleboard ride from the top to the bottom of the Mississippi River — which he said will earn him a spot in the world record book.

Cornthwaite said he doesn’t really consider himself a swimmer, and before jumping in at Chamberland, he hadn’t swum more than 300 meters (less than a quarter of a mile).

“I wasn’t a strong swimmer at all,” he said. “The key is being positive and saying ‘yes’ more. The difference between doing and not doing is just doing it.”

Cornthwaite said before he began the journeys, he had a conventional design job.

“At the age of 25 I decided I wanted to live a life of passion, rather than live the same day to day until the end,” he said. “I thought about the things that make me happy and combined them to create the life I have now.”

Cornthwaite also raises funds to supports rural schools in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

How to Donate

Those who wish to donate can visit www.swim1000.com or visit facebook.com/expedition1000. Cornthwaite is on Twitter @Swim1000 and @DaveCorn.

Online, Cornthwaite shares his journey from high to low points. He encourages people to visit, even if only to leave a small message of support.