Viking's historic 23-hour Hume swim

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Peter Pattenden celebrates his side-to-side weir swim. PICTURES: Ben Eyles.

Peter Pattenden celebrates his side-to-side weir swim. PICTURES: Ben Eyles.

HE’S the part-time Wod­onga Raiders mascot who has been labelled the Border’s own Loch Ness monster.

Now the bearded Leneva adventurer has backstroked his way into legend by becoming the first person to swim the length of Lake Hume.

With scuba-diving flippers, hand paddles and a buoyancy wetsuit, Peter Pattenden’s 23-hour journey carried him through a starry night and pouring rain.

While most shake their heads at his exploits, Mr Pattenden’s record-breaking effort had a real purpose.

He’s still haunted by an encounter he had with the kayaking Australian soldier who drowned on the lake and wants everyone to know there is life-saving gear to keep people warm and floating.

In July last year Corporal Gavin Fisher was crippled by hypothermia in water where Mr Pattenden had, the same day, been happily wallowing.

“I was the last person he spoke to,” Mr Pattenden said.

“I was getting out of the water at the boat ramp then he was getting in the water.

“I turned around and said ‘Mate, you don’t want to borrow my wetsuit, do you?’

“Twenty minutes later he was drowned and dead.”

While Mr Pattenden’s weekend swim was achieved wearing two wetsuits, including one designed for kite surfers, he said the fact he could spend a whole day and night in the water at age 52 was fair proof some sudden drowning tragedies could be avoided.

VIDEO: The FootyFix boys first met Peter as guitar-playing viking earlier this year. Click play to relive that funny encounter.

Mr Pattenden set off from Bowna on Friday night and arrived at Tallangatta near sunset on Saturday.

His entire journey was done in backstroke, using an efficient surface-swimming technique employed by scuba divers to travel long distances, after beginning the hobby in 2008 as part of a rehabilitation from knee surgery.

It means he spends a lot of time staring skyward.

Saturday saw no glaring sun but instead pelting rain that left his face raw and red.

It was the night that was most enjoyable.

“It’s actually easier to swim at night because you navigate with the stars,” Mr Pattenden said.

“You set your line between the stars like a ship’s captain.”

The hardened bus and gas tanker driver is used to long sleepless days and would rest at the points between the lake’s bays every two or three kilometres.

He had just a 30-minute nap at Bethanga Bay, leaving him feeling understandably “shattered” yesterday.

During his journey, fishermen kept an eye on him as he floated by, after getting over the initial shock of seeing a middle-aged man pulling a surfboard behind him had subsided.

“I asked one bloke as I was swimming past ‘What time is it?’,” Mr Pattenden said.

“He said ‘Isn’t it time you found something better to do?’.”