How a New Bedford native learned to love open water swimming through the Buzzards Bay Swim

Swimmer Ben Ostiguy challenged himself to complete his first open-water swim at the Buzzards Bay Swim in 2008. Now, for his 10th year swimming — and the Swim’s 25th anniversary — he’s set himself a new challenge: to double his fundraising donations in support of clean water.

Ben Ostiguy at the 2008 Buzzards Bay Swim

Ben Ostiguy conquered his fear of open water by completing the 2008 Buzzards Bay Swim.

Ben was a swimmer from an early age. As a child growing up in New Bedford, he took swim lessons with his mom at the YMCA and spent many hours swimming in his backyard pool. He joined his high school swim team, and was even named captain his senior year.

Despite his success in the pool, Ben was hesitant to swim offshore. “I loved the beach and would wade in the water, but I never liked to go out beyond where I could touch bottom,” he remembered.

Ben eventually moved away from Buzzards Bay to attend graduate school and start a career in Northampton, Mass. While visiting his parents in New Bedford in 2008, he saw an advertisement for the Buzzards Bay Swim, and he was intrigued.

“I wanted to conquer those doubts and hesitations,” Ben recalled. “But I wasn’t sure what to expect, and if it would be awkward not knowing anyone at the event.” But he pushed his doubts aside and decided to register.

When the day of the Swim arrived, Ben stepped onto the beach – and saw many of his old high school swim team friends gathered at the shore, along with hundreds of other swimmers of all ages and athletic abilities. “Everyone was so friendly and warm and welcoming, and it was a beautiful sunny day with calm seas,” he said. “It was awesome!”

Bolstered by the crowd that morning, Ben heard the start gun sound and pushed off from the shore – beyond the comfortable area where his feet could touch the bottom – and never looked back. He easily completed the 1.2-mile course across outer New Bedford Harbor and was welcomed with a finisher’s medal and a pancake breakfast on the beach in Fairhaven.

Ben returned to New Bedford for the Swim every year after that. As time went on, he felt increasingly connected to Buzzards Bay. He began to come back more often to explore new areas he had never visited before, like Cuttyhunk and Penikese Islands on Coalition Bay Adventures. “Over time, I came to appreciate the Coalition’s clean water mission and the impact the Swim has on the community. New Bedford began to feel more like home than it did when I lived there.”

A few years ago, Ben set a goal of raising $1,000 each year for his Swim, rather than the $150 fundraising minimum. At first, the goal was daunting. But with the help of his family, friends, and the power of social media, Ben quickly realized just how much support he had, and he again exceeded his personal expectations. To date, thanks so the generosity of his donors, Ben has raised nearly $6,000 for clean water through the Buzzards Bay Swim.

“People need to know: you don’t have to be a super-athlete to swim in this event,” Ben said about the Swim. “If you happen to be an elite swimmer, we’ll celebrate that; if you want to take your time and come across the finish line doing the backstroke, we’ll celebrate that, too. If you’re not a swimmer, you can volunteer or donate.”

In honor of the 25th anniversary Swim and his 10th year participating, Ben has once again set a new challenge for himself: to double his fundraising goal to $2,000. “As I’m getting older, my time slows down a little every year, but the one thing that can continue to get better is my fundraising!” With the support of his friends and family and his personal track record of success over the past 10 years, he’s ready to give it his best shot.

Join Ben and hundreds of other swimmers at the 25th anniversary Buzzards Bay Swim on Saturday, June 30. Sign up now! (Already registered? You can join Ben and Double Your Donation for the 25th anniversary Swim.)

The Buzzards Bay Swim is a Waterkeeper Alliance SPLASH Series event, presented nationally by Toyota. The SPLASH Series engages local citizens in recreational use of our waterways to celebrate access to clean water. Event sponsors also include Amica Insurance, Buzzards Bay Brewing, Citizens Commercial Banking, Fiber Optic Center, and YMCA Southcoast.

Category: Events

Swim the Bay, Save the Bay

Buzzards Bay Swim

Celebrate clean water at the Coalition's 27th annual Buzzards Bay Swim on Saturday, June 27, 2020! Join more than 400 others who make a difference to protect clean water in Buzzards Bay. You can swim, volunteer, or cheer on swimmers as they cross outer New Bedford Harbor.

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Working to Save Buzzards Bay

The Buzzards Bay Coalition is a membership-supported organization dedicated to improving the health of the Buzzards Bay ecosystem for all through education, conservation, research, and advocacy.

We work to protect clean water on the Bay and on the land: