The $29,000 Birthday Swim

“Here’s to the crazy ones!”


There are an over 8 million people in the world without access to clean water. As I speculate on the art of designing your life and I write with freedom and reckless abandon, I also know that some people are just trying to live. The irony is not lost on me. I am grateful.

This year, as part of a promise we each made at WDSI’m donating my 29th birthday to Scott Harrison’s quest to bring everyone clean water. It won’t solve all of the world’s problems, but it’s a start. And as my contribution, I’m asking 1000 people to donate $29 for my birthday. Instead of a birthday present, or a gift, or a meal out with your friends or family: would you join 1000 voices and donate to my birthday water campaign?

I’m asking 1000 people to donate $29 for my birthday.

I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to do it. One thousand people. That’s a lot.

The campaign started on July 12th, 2012. I have until September 1st to raise the funding. Will you join me? 

The catch? If I actually raise $29,000, I promise that I’ll do a birthday swim–in my birthday suit, nonetheless–from Alcatraz to San Francisco. 1.5 miles in cold water with nothing but a swim cap. (It will not be a spectator event, for anyone questioning out there! I will make sure to have confirmation from several sources). It will be freezing. I will be very, very cold. But a little cold and a little bay muck is nothing compared to the lives lived on other countries in this world. But only if I raise the $29K.

If I actually raise $29,000, I promise that I’ll do a birthday swim–in my birthday suit, nonetheless–from Alcatraz to San Francisco.

Image credit: Charity:Water


I’m looking for companies and start-ups interested in donating.

So far, several companies and start-ups around the world have jumped on board to join the crazy:

  • Crunch Gym in San Francisco is donating a free membership and a free training session as prize money!
  • Xola pitched in $150 of prize money towards an adventure or extreme sports activity!
  • Sports Basement donated 30 individual 10% off coupons for shoppers to use before October 31st, and an additional 10% of each purchase will be donated to charity.
  • Bikini Fling in UK sent over a swimsuit for me to wear during — or put on after — the swim.
  • Getaround, the San Francisco car-sharing startup, is matching my car rental earnings during the month of August!
  • Everest, a company devoted to unlocking human potential and finding ways for people to live their dreams, is on board to make this dream a reality.
  • Big Wheel Brigade, a software consulting and product development shop (with a soft spot for social good), has agreed to match up to 100 donations of $29 (That’s $2900!!!) for this campaign. If you donate, send them a quick email or post on their Facebook page and they will tally up and match your donations.
  • I’m also using, a place to get advice from your network of experts, to donate all calls made during August to Charity:Water. (Got a question or want advice? Sign up! We’ll chat.)
  • Zirtual, a team that makes your life easier with virtual assistants, said they love crazy dreams and ambitious plans, so they’re on board to contribute to make this dream a little easier (Or making my life harder by getting me to do the swim…)

Start-ups know the power of a little bit. Of a nudge. Of belief, and of what $29 can do.  It’s about the power of micro-communities, of people invested in the success of other people, and the power of 1000 voices. We have everything in SF. We’re all working our tails off, but let’s pause for a minute, skip that extra bottle of wine, and let’s do something for people who are just struggling for the right to live.

They also know the power of crazy ideas and audacity. We may be working day and night on our favorite start-ups and next projects and side-hustles, but we are able to do so because we have housing, transportation, internet, infrastructure, water, food, and other basic amenities at our fingertips.  I’m not saying this is the best way to fix the problems of the world… but it’s a small step, and it’s do-able, and it makes a difference.

Specifically, I’d like to get at least ten San Francisco Start-ups to donate $290 to $2900.

If you’re a business owner or a start-up fan, consider making matching pledges for anyone that contributes in their name. If you donate and mention your favorite San Francisco Start-Up, I hope that they’ll match your dollars to make this a reality.  As a San Francisco resident and native, and someone who loves and is invested in the power of the start-up community in San Francisco, I’d love for their help. GetAroundRelayRides, Uber, LyftDropBoxTwitterZaarlyFourSquare37SignalsEverestTask Rabbit, The New Hive, ThumbTack, and all you other crazy start-ups out there: Let me do the hard part. I’ll swim the bay for you. All you gotta do is help out with $290 towards clean water.

Because to show my love for the start-up world, for San Francisco, and for the power of water, I’m willing to do something a little crazy. I’ll swim my suit off (literally) for the love of start-ups and for the love of water.

Sometimes, it takes a little crazy.

Actually, all the time it takes a little crazy.

Join me.

It’s a little crazy. And I don’t know how I’m going to do it. I’m asking for $29. Or $290. Or whatever you want to donate. Surprise me.

Latest updates:

2012-07-29: Largest donation to date ~ $2929.29 donated on July 29th at 2:29 AM.
2012-07-27: Check out the new Facebook page to follow the contributions!
2012-07-26: “Feel Good Friday: The Naked Water Edition,” by Matt Madeiro on Make Every Day Count.
2012-07-25: “The Story of Enough: Giving Up (New) Clothes For A Year,” Essay on Joshua Becker’s Becoming Minimalist Blog.
2012-07-20: Anonymous donor gives $1000 to the campaign. Amazing.
2012-07-12: Bikini Fling (UK) says they’ll send me a free swimsuit from their line for me to swim in!
2012-07-10: Campaign kickoff! 

With love,