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Block Island to Jamestown: Man plans 19-mile swim to raise money for Clean Ocean Access

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JAMESTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) —An endurance swimmer will soon attempt to be the first person to swim 19 miles nonstop from Block Island to Jamestown.

Ben Tuff has been training every day for a year for Sunday’s swim to raise money and awareness for the environmental nonprofit Clean Ocean Access.

The swim was previously set for Saturday but has been rescheduled for Sunday due to rough seas.

In August 2019, he raised more than $54,000 for the cause when he swam 23 miles nonstop around Conanicut Island.

“It’s giving back to the environment and everything it’s given me,” Tuff said.

Tuff said he’s doing this swim because he has seen firsthand the beauty and fragility of the ocean that he loves.

“All my summers growing up in Jamestown, it’s this beautiful environment, these waters, and the clarity of the waters and the cleanliness of the waters,” he recalled. “When I learned about Clean Ocean Access, I said, ‘I need to do something for this group’ and at the same time, I said, ‘I need to do something crazy, and something other people didn’t do.'”

He’s hopeful this swim will inspire people to donate to help keep Rhode Island waters clean and accessible.

“Other than the things you can’t control like weather, waves, sharks, jellyfish, you can control up to a certain point, and by training and putting in the time, you can get to whatever that goal is,” Tuff added.

Tuff’s dedication to ocean conservation and his passion for incredible feats has gained the attention of Australian technology company Ocean Guardian, maker of the world’s only proven shark deterrent which he will be wearing for the entire swim.

“It creates muscle spasms and they don’t like that,” Tuff explained.

Atlantic Shark Institute Executive Director Jon Dodd said nine acoustic receivers set up around Block Island detected four great white sharks during the early part of this year’s research, but only 5% of great whites have been tagged.

Tuff said based on previous endurance swims, he will get stung by swarms of jellyfish.

He won’t be swimming in the ocean alone, however. His friend will be paddle-boarding the route alongside him with support vessels nearby.

Tuff plans to start swimming at 6 a.m. and hopefully end by mid-afternoon. There are access points anyone can stop at to celebrate his progress before meeting him at the finish line.

  • Point Judith: First Observation Point
    • The earliest you will be able to see Ben is 10 a.m., but plan to be there around 9 a.m.
  • Newton Ave: Second Observation Point
    • The earliest you will be able to see Ben is noon
  • Pier: Third Observation Point
    • The earliest you will be able to see Ben is 12:30 p.m.
  • Beavertail: Finish Point
    • Ben will finish his swim by 3 p.m. the earliest
  • Finish Line Party: Memorial Square 
    • 3:15 p.m. the earliest 

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