Double amputee set to swim across Lake Tahoe | SierraSun.com

Double amputee set to swim across Lake Tahoe

Sylas Wright
swright@sierrasun.com

Harry Boucher enjoys a good challenge.

But that only explains part of why the 44-year-old Turlock resident plans to swim 12 miles across the width of Lake Tahoe — while towing his son on a kayak, and using only his arms for propulsion.

Boucher, whose feet were amputated after contracting meningitis at 18 months old, will take on the ambitious open-water swim to help raise awareness and increase accessibility for people with disabilities.

"My son Max, who's 11, has cerebral palsy and is in wheelchair, and that's really what got me thinking about all the restrictions there are. Like in school, there's really not a whole lot as far as equipment and things like that," said Boucher, who works with nonprofit organizations such as the Society for Disabilities, which helps establish Miracle League baseball fields and playgrounds for disabled children.

Boucher will depart from Sand Harbor State Park about 9:30 a.m. Sunday and finish at Skylandia Beach near Tahoe City. He anticipates being in the water for five to six hours and will be flanked by a support boat full of family members.

While Boucher considers himself an accomplished open-water swimmer, he said 12 miles will be his longest official swim to date. He pulled Max on a kayak in two previous fundraising events near Livermore, one of which measured 2.5 kilometers and the other about 6 miles, he said.

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"After I did that I felt like I wanted to take on a bigger challenge, and maybe something a little bit more iconic. Everyone knows Lake Tahoe," said Boucher, who has competed in past Trans Tahoe Relays.

Should he succsessfully reach Skylandia Beach on Sunday, Boucher will become the first double amputee known to swim across Lake Tahoe.

It won't be easy. Although Boucher brought a wetsuit, he hopes not to wear it despite the cold water temperature.

"I want to get the full experience," he said. "But we'll see."

Adding to the challenge, Boucher essentially will act as a human tugboat while pulling Max on the kayak — he simulates the extra drag by using a swim parachute in a pool. He also does not wear his prosthetics while swimming, leaving his arms to do all the work.

"I don't use my legs or kick or anything like that. It's all arms," he said.

While Boucher is aware of the obstacles that stand in his way — including Tahoe's thin air at roughly 6,200 feet in elevation — he has confidence on his side.

"I'm just looking at it as being a nice swim and a fun day, and my family will be on the boat having a good time," he said.

For more information about Boucher or to donate to his cause, go to harryswims.org. Information about the Miracle League is available at miracleleague.com.