Next stop San Francisco as 'longest swim' embarks from Tokyo

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Before Benoit Lecomte waded into the surf off north-east Japan on Tuesday to begin his 5,500-mile swim across the Pacific Ocean to San Francisco, his biggest concern was not the distance, storms, exhaustion or even sharks.

A French man set off on a daunting excursion Tuesday, hoping to swim six months through a massive pile of garbage and raise awareness of plastic pollution.

"I am very anxious to start right now", Lecomte said as he prepared to take to the waves.

"The challenge is to keep doing the same thing for hour after hour and day after day", 50-year-old Mr Lecomte told The Telegraph before his departure from Choshi Beach, to the north-east of Tokyo.

"To do the physical aspect of it, yea, it is hard, but what is much more hard is to be in that very hostile environment, and the mind has to be super strong", he said. You have to make sure you always think about something positive or you always have something to think about.

He will be accompanied throughout by the 20-metre (67-foot) support boat Discoverer, where he will eat, rest and sleep before being dropped every morning where he stopped the previous evening.

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"Pollution of the ocean has a big impact", said the father-of-two, who will be gathering oceanographic and medical data for 27 scientific organizations, including NASA.

The team accompanying Lecomte will collect water samples each day along the way to determine the level of plastic and microplastic pollution. "Now, everywhere I go on the beach, I see plastic everywhere".

His training included hours of open water swimming, and "visualization" exercises to prepare mentally.

In 1998, Lecomte swam across the Atlantic Ocean, starting in MA and finishing in France, the BBC reported.

He added: "I try to disassociate my mind from my body and everything that happens to my body - pain or cold, I try to put aside".

"Now every time I go with my kids, we see plastic everywhere".

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