Ben Tuff swam 19 miles from Block Island to Jamestown last year to raise money, and now he's found another, longer challenge to support his work for a clean, healthy ocean that's accessible to everyone.
Tuff plans to swim the length of Narragansett Bay, 25 miles from Providence to Newport, on July 22. He's trying to raise $100,000 for Clean Ocean Access, an environmental nonprofit agency where he serves as president. Tuff says it will mark the first time anyone has swum the length of the Bay.
“We can’t sit back and think our oceans will heal on their own," Tuff said in announcing his swim, adding that the organization works "day in and day out to eliminate marine debris, improve water quality and protect and preserve shoreline access."
Tuff, 41, has already swum two fundraisers for Clean Ocean Access, raising more than $160,000 with a 23-mile swim around Conanicut Island in August 2020 and last summer's swim from Block Island.
A recovered alcoholic, Tuff says he wouldn't have the discipline or drive to complete such tests of endurance, if he hadn't quit drinking a decade ago.
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"I am, by far, in the best shape I've ever been in in my life," he says. "I know I wouldn't have the drive and the mission-based mindset."
Tuff grew up in Jamestown and still considers it home despite a job in Connecticut. He typically swims two hours a day. Last Sunday, he did an eight-hour swim and plans a five-hour swim this weekend, as he tapers down for the fundraiser.
Tuff says wasn't much of a swimmer before a sponsor suggested he try the sport. Even now, he doesn't consider himself a great swimmer. He hopes his experience can also encourage people to try new challenges at any point in their lives.
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An upcoming documentary called “Swim Tuff: How I Swam My Way Out of the Bottle” will explore Tuff's story. By being open about this struggle with alcohol, Tuff says he hopes it will encourage at least one person to live "a healthier life."
For last year's swim, Tuff's big concern was the potential that he'd share the water with great white sharks as he swam across Block Island Sound. To prevent a possible encounter, Tuff wore an electronic device designed to repel the fish.
This year, Tuff isn't worried about sharks, but he says strong tides in the Bay will create problems. He plans to start with the tide, but since he expects to swim for about 14 hours, he will also have to swim against the tide.
Heavier boat traffic could also create challenges, especially near the finish. Tuff plans to emerge from the water at the Newport Folk Festival, an area likely to be filled with water craft as fans enjoy the music.
He's still trying to figure out the logistics of the finish, but says "there's no better way of putting the spotlight on the health of the ocean" than finishing amid a crowd of people enjoying it.
Information on donating to Tuff's swim is available on Clean Ocean Access's website.
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This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Man's swim from Providence to Newport will raise money for ocean