Water Warrior

Evansville native sets nonstop swim world record
Adam Ellenstein and his aunt, Susan Scarlett

Growing up along the banks of the Ohio River in Evansville, Adam Ellenstein quickly found a comfort in the water. He remembers his grandmother Jeanne Ellenstein’s pool and swimming there as a child.

“I always have felt a real sense of center when I’m in the water,” says the University of Evansville graduate.

As an endurance athlete, 39-year-old Ellenstein has ran, biked, and swam in triathlons, Ironman series, and Ultraman competitions around the U.S. and Canada. This summer, he turned his attention to swimming — his favorite of the three disciplines — to complete a 105-kilometer (65-mile), nonstop swim across the length of Okanagan Lake, British Columbia. Called the Victory Swim 105, Ellenstein planned the excursion as a way to honor his aunt, Susan Scarlett, after her diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease in the fall of 2015.

“In partnership with an organization called The Davis Phinney Foundation, our goal was to raise awareness and support for those living with Parkinson’s,” says Ellenstein. “The question of could I swim the length of the lake was certainly a backdrop for those bigger purposes, bigger meanings that the swim took on.”

In July, Ellenstein slipped into the waters of Okanagan Lake and began a 41-hour trek down the length of the lake — the first official Guinness World record of the fastest nonstop swim of the lake. Nestled in a valley by the same name, Okanagan is a place of extremes, he explains. Lined with mountains, it has been home to many athletic endurance challenges.

“It’s pristine in beauty,” says Ellenstein, “even more pristine in the quality, integrity, and friendliness of the people who live there.”

A crew of about 15 family members and friends — including his wife Amelia — provided Ellenstein support, nutrition, safety, and more during his time in the water. Following along in kayaks, pontoons, and a speedboat, they traveled the length of the lake with him. On his first day, when the waters were calm and the sun high, Scarlett also ventured into the lake and swam alongside her nephew.

“When I got to shore, everyone wanted to focus on me,” says Ellenstein, “but my happiness and satisfaction was more for the crew than for myself.”

For more information on Ellenstein and the Victory Swim 105, visit


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