NARRAGANSETT, R.I. (WPRI) — A North Kingstown native and three-time Olympian is set to be the first woman to swim to Block Island from Point Judith.
On Thursday, Sept. 9, Elizabeth Beisel hopes to make history. She says the reasoning behind this is a very personal one, but hopes by sharing her story and doing this swim will help others who are fighting cancer just like her father did.
“When I take the ferry there and look out and say, ‘wow these waters are so rough!’ I’m like, imagine swimming there, and now I’m like, ‘yeah, I’m going to swim there!'” Beisel said. “But it will be an amazing experience.”
The Olympic medalist isn’t making the 12-and-a-half-mile swim because she needs a new challenge, she says she is doing it for her father Ted who died on July 1 at the age of 71.
Her father was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer in December, and Beisel says they found out on Christmas Day.
“That’s where I came up with the idea of swimming to Block Island, you know, I have this amazing swimming platform. What is it worth if I’m not using it?” Beisel recalled.
She then decided to team up with Swim Across America, which is a non-profit organization that raises funds for cancer research and clinical trials.
All of the money raised by Beisel’s swim, which is called “Block Cancer” will be donated to Rhode Island Hospital where loved ones will be treated if they have cancer.
“One of the last things he said to me was we want to reach $100,000 dollars,” she said. “We are getting closer and closer and I know he is watching and he is so proud and with me on every single stroke. Hopefully we can get that $100,000 because it’s going back to the community and that’s what this is all about.”
Beisel says there is a big difference between swimming in a pool and being in the Block Island Sound and it is going to challenge her more than anything she has ever done before.
“I did a swim last night literally at Narragansett and there are so many more factors,” Beisel recalled. “There are tides and the current and the temperature you know, I was freezing after, like, only an hour, and I’m going to be swimming for potentially six to eight hours so I need to start taking more ice baths, I need to start taking cold showers.”
She says in the pool it’s a much more controlled environment.
“I know exactly what to expect, I know exactly how far I am swimming, there is no current, and there is no tide, and there is no marine life,” she said.
When asked about the recent sharks being tagged between Point Judith and Block Island, Beisel says the marine life is definitely something on her mind.
“I’ll be surrounded by so many support boats that if there were any marine life around me, I don’t think they would want anything to do with me, luckily, and we will have some type of shark team on one of the boats just to monitor everything,” Beisel explained. “I will be fine! I say that now, I keep telling myself that I will be fine!”
Beisel is set to leave from Point Judith the morning of Sept. 9 and will finish the 12-and-a-half-mile swim at the North Lighthouse, which is on the Northernmost tip of Block Island.
“Coming into Block Island is going to be so emotional, there is no way for me to prepare for that because this is for my dad and for the entire community of people that have fought cancer or had somebody fight cancer,” Beisel said.
“The one thing I will tell myself throughout the entire swim because inevitably I will want to give up at some point, this is the hardest thing I have ever done, I’m just going to remind myself this is way easier than fighting cancer, and how could I ever feel sorry for myself in this moment,” she continued.
When asked if she will make this an annual event, she says she will see how this swim goes.
“It would be great to somehow raise funds for cancer research, if this swim is too hard, I’ll find another way,” she said.
With six weeks to go before the swim, thousands of dollars have already been raised.
You can read more about Beisel’s swim and make a donation online at BlockCancer.org.