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‘A refreshing experience:’ 67-year-old man swims across Lake Lanier
swimmer donn davis
Donn Davis, 67, swam over a mile and a half in Lake Lanier on Monday, Sept. 26, traveling above Buford Dam from Gwinnett County to Forsyth County. Photo courtesy Donn Davis.

Sixty-seven-year-old Donn Davis was on a “natural high” after checking off an item from his bucket list.

On Monday, Sept. 26, the resident of Sugar Hill swam over a mile and a half from one side of Lake Lanier to the other without taking any breaks. The swimmer said it took him a little over an hour to complete this feat.

“To me, it was a refreshing experience; I enjoyed the whole trip,” Davis said. “And it wasn’t as hard on me as I thought it would be.”

Davis swam just north of Buford Dam, swimming from Gwinnett County to Forsyth County.

According to Davis, he had been telling himself he could swim the lake in one take since the 80s, when he used to take his nieces out for beach days.

“I’ve been wanting to do this for years and years and years,” Davis said. “Just to prove something to myself – that I can make it to the other side of that lake.”

To train for his swim, Davis said he’d been working out at a gym, using its Olympic-sized pool to practice swimming laps. His record was 54 laps non-stop, which is 2,700 meters or about 1.7 miles.

But training wasn’t the hard part, Davis said. The most challenging part about the whole venture was finding someone available to ride alongside him in a boat.

“I needed to have someone there in case something happened,” Davis said.

To make sure everything went smoothly, Davis recruited his friend, Forsyth County resident Ben Craddock, to boat alongside him and watch to make sure Davis was safe.

“I was 50% of this [venture], but [Craddock] was the other [50%],” Davis said. “I really couldn’t have done this without him. I wasn’t going to go out there alone, you know?”

Davis mentioned he even had a special signal he practiced with Craddock, in case he needed to stop or was starting to feel ill. Thankfully, Davis didn’t need to use it.

“I knew I was good [to swim] over a mile,” Davis said. “There was no doubt about that, but I needed to be safe.”

While he said his swim would be impressive for someone of his age, Davis explained that he was no stranger to pushing himself to his limits. Just a few years back, Davis said he biked the Silver Comet Trail round-trip in three days.

The Silver Comet Trail is over 60 miles long and travels from Smyrna to Anniston, Alabama. 

“I’ve had other people tell me they don’t know anybody near my age that’s attempted to swim across Lake Lanier,” Davis said. “As far as I know, I’ve been told I’m probably the oldest man to swim across the lake.”

While Davis said he felt a sense of accomplishment from swimming Lake Lanier, he mentioned that he can’t rest too long.

“I’ve still got to take my bike to South Carolina,” he said. “I want to bike there and also travel – take a Mediterranean cruise. But that’s for another year.”