Greg Van Volkenburg and Tom Van Volkenburg - Lake Erie

Long Point, Ontario to North East Twp, Pennsylvania

38.3 km (23.8 miles)

10 hours, 33 minutes on 15 July 2019

Observed and documented by Patrick Hesidence

Course Record, Long Point/Freeport.

Co-ratified with Lake Erie Open Water Swimming Association (LEOWSA)



Name Gender Age Nationality Resides
Greg Van Volkenburg M 34 USA Houston, TX
Tom Van Volkenburg M 30 USA Raleigh, NC

Support Personnel

  • John and Carolyn Bauman - boat pilots
  • Kevin Curmisivo - kayak
  • Ryan Brown - kayak
  • Meg Van Volkenburg - kayak, medical
  • Patrick Hesidence - LEOWSA observer

Escort Vessel: Bad Boys (Erie, PA)

Swim Parameters

Category: Solo, nonstop, unassisted.

Rules: MSF Rules of Marathon Swimming, without exception or modification.

Route Definition

  • Body of Water: Lake Erie
  • Route Type: one-way
  • Start Location: Tip of Long Point, Ontario, near lighthouse (42.547779, -80.049072)
  • Finish Location: Freeport Beach, North East Twp, Pennsylvania (42.241647, -79.833181)
  • Minimum Route Distance: 38.3 km (23.8 miles)


List of Lake Erie swims (LongSwimsDB)

Swim Data

  • Start: 15 July 2019, 07:34, Eastern Daylight Time
  • Finish: 15 July 2019, 18:07
  • Elapsed: 10 hours, 33 minutes, 22 seconds.

Summary of Conditions

Feature Min Max
Water Temp (F) 66 66
Air Temp (F) 65 73
Wind (mph) 2 5

GPS Track

Trackpoint frequency: 30 minutes. Download raw data (CSV).

Speed Plot


Infinit drink and occasional gel, every 30 minutes.

Observer Log

Download PDF

Narrative Report

by Patrick Hesidence

On July 15 2019, the Van Volkenburg brothers, Tom and Greg, embarked on their journey across Lake Erie. I am fortunate enough to have tagged along to witness the extraordinary athleticism of the brothers to complete this task.

I am Patrick Hesidence, a grandfather of 2, an observer, an athlete and someone who appreciates and understands the great challenges of great accomplishments. Erie PA is home to some of the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets in the world and that is where our journey begins. I met Tom, Greg and his family a few days before the swim date, although we had been preparing in advance of their swim. Ensuring the kayakers and boats that would escort them during the long swim through the largest fresh water lake in the US, One has to wonder who would attempt this swim once let alone twice. Additionally, how could 2 swimmers from the same parents have the right DNA combination of core strength and endurance to complete the task of nearly 24 miles.

The morning of the swim started early in the dark. The boat was packed with a sea chest of hoagies and munchies. Amazingly, both brothers had a whole hoagie during the ride to canadian point. Most people would be ready for a nap after sucking down the loaf of bread and meat. Since I was new to the preparation, i was impressed with the methodical attention that was in place on various people. The captain and his beautiful wife of the boat were knowledgeable of the lake and knew the course well. This was their second trip with the brothers. Food was stocked and checked. During the hour ride to the lighthouse, i sat in the front, on the captain’s left side, with my clipboard. I had my own check list and notes to ensure i knew my role. While we hummed along the lake surface, I heard giggles back and forth of the past few days of silliness and slap stick comedy. And as the sun rose up, the boat got silent. Maybe it was from the awe of the sunrise or maybe it was just a moment to reflect what needed to get done and the long day ahead of us.

As soon as we reached two miles to the shore of the lighthouse, the conversation started faster and loader. We were in strategy mode. you could hear the heavy sighs of breath and see the human windmill of arm warmups. Then came the sunscreen followed by the lanolin. A nasty white paste to keep them warm. it was everywhere and with a grace of a mother to go anywhere and everywhere, the captain’s wife rubbed her hands all over their backside. We were now about 300 hundred yards out for the start of the trip, discussion on strategy and last minute thoughts filled the air. The boat stopped and off they went to swim to the shore. It was my job to give the count down and make it formal. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, and off they went, side by side. Even I got chills thinking about their journey.

Now the kayaks had settled in on both sides of them. Tom’s wife settled in on the right side. It was Tom’s breathing side; his picture of comfort on every breath. The brothers’ father kayaked as a floater, drifting in and out of the line to Freeport Beach. On the odd occasion Greg would carry a conversation on every breath with the kayakers. The fragmented conversation was a clear indication of mindset and personal character. The miles began to tick away and as i marked every 15 minutes noting the longitude and the latitude, weather and general conditions, there were several notable thoughts to share that marked their journey.

First, we had a blow up rubber duck the size of a very small car attached to the boat. At first, I thought maybe this was a good luck charm, who was I to judge good luck charms. However, I quickly learned that the duck was acquired during the last trip and was now the team mascot. Go Ducks!

Second, a family friend who had planned to help with kayaking and miscellaneous logistics was incapable of assisting. A long night of celebrating the night before eliminated his ability to help. I’m sure it was a long day for him, but he became a useful comedic distraction to help pass the time.

Also, two barges crossed our paths. Although they seemed to be irrelevant to the brother’s swim, their passing did change the water surface causing an additional ripple.

Also, the black flies and gnats were a constant invader of my focus. if they weren’t biting, they were using me as a landing pad. Good for me, i wore long sleeves, and pants. As one can imagine, on a nice sunny day, long sleeves and pants are probably the last outfit selection, but it proved to be the right barrier against these flying varmints.

The swim….

Tom and Greg were consistently amazing. There was some variation in wind direction, various levels of currents, and some challenging wave hight but overall it was a beautiful day for a swim. Although their swim technique is different, their stroke count was very consistent and they kept together for the entire swim. They kept to their plan with nutrition and remained positive. The kayakers did their best to keep them in a straight path to avoid or minimize added distance.

The record…

As I recorded each mile, the Brothers had joked about beating the record swim in previous conversations. We even talked about it during the halfway point. The first half of the swim because of wind and currents were not kind to the brothers. We knew the they would get a push during the last third of the swim but was not sure if it was enough. Amazingly, Tom and Greg continued to push their progress forward to Freeport Beach and hope they had enough energy to make up for the more challenging swim environment during the first half of the swim. As luck would have it, they glided to the finish after 10 hours and 33 minutes. An incredible record swim completed by two brothers that have an incredible relationship.


Click to enlarge.


Weather Data

Windfinder Forecast

NOAA Great Lakes Coastal Forecasts