“It’s a bit of a crazy story,” gendarme Laurent Saintespes who is based at the Biarritz airport, told the AFP news agency. “You have to have a sense of humour when the Olympics are on in London.”
But the incident could have turned to tragedy, he pointed out, since the man had no special equipment and appears to have had no idea of the scale of the task he had set himself.
At 3.30 pm lifeguards noticed that a swimmer had gone beyond the 300-metre limit set by their rules.
“They lost sight of him and called us for help,” Saintespes said.
The gendarmes sent a helicopter after him and lowered a diver to speak to him.
“Our diver explained that swimming to America was not a good idea,” Saintespes told the wire service. “He replied that he was a good swimmer and was in good condition.”
A lifeguards’ paddleboard arrived at the same time and the man, realising that he was perhaps making a mistake, agreed to be accompanied back to shore.
His rescuers describe him as “naïve” and say he was the victim of a joke.
Some friends apparently told him that if he swam to America a boat would pick him up.