Think about an 80-mile stretch of open ocean. Blue waves as far as the eye can see. No end in sight. You have one goal in mind: to reach the other side.
Traveling 80 miles across the Gulfstream in the Atlantic Ocean can be a daunting task in a boat. Now think about making that same crossing on a paddleboard — intimidating, right? Now imagine that you have cystic fibrosis, an inherited disorder that causes damage to your lungs as well as other organs. Do you think you could make it?
This is one challenge that few people in the world would dare to undertake. In fact, only 225 individuals are currently training to make the Crossing for a Cure on June 15, 2019, which starts in Bimini, Bahamas, and ends on the Florida mainland just south of Palm Beach. A couple of paddlers participating have cystic fibrosis, including 4ocean Brand Ambassador, Ben Mudge.
Ben is a 29-year-old from Belfast, Northern Ireland. He lives there with his wife, Janice, and their English cocker spaniel, Ollie. Like many others, Ben loves Marvel superheroes. He occasionally dresses up as Thor to inspire children with cystic fibrosis to take their nebulizer medicine. He also has over 105,000 followers on Instagram where he inspires CF patients and others to live a healthy lifestyle.
Ben posts photos of himself dressed as Thor taking his nebulizer medicine, and he often gets pictures of children with CF doing the same.
Ben wasn’t always this way. He enjoyed being active when he was young, but became more sedintary after he graduated. He noticed that this lack of activity affected everything in his life. In addition to losing his fitness, he lost his confidence, which changed his outlook on life.
Ben decided to do something about it. He started weight training. He gained back his confidence because he was no longer the skinny, sick-looking kid he was in school. He looked and he felt better.
Ben has built a career — and a community — around fitness
Eight years later, Ben now enjoys his work as a trainer. He especially enjoys creating CF-specific training plans as well as leading support groups of people with this disease.
“Helping people with CF manage their weight, their food, and the gym is probably the best decision I’ve ever made," Ben says of his profession, "but the coolest part is I’m creating a community of people.”
Ben enjoys fitness, but he is unlike many trainers who are obsessed with the process.
“I don’t live to train. I train to live. My life doesn’t revolve around fitness,” he said. “It flows in and around my life like water— it is part of my life, and is the reason I can do things like Crossing for a Cure.”
Ben crosses the Atlantic to cross the Gulf Stream
Ben became involved with the Crossing after being interviewed for Epic Love Radio, a show by Piper’s Angels, the nonprofit organization that hosts the Crossing for a Cure.
Ben at the Epic Love Radio Show
Piper’s Angels is named after Piper Suit, a little girl who was diagnosed with the most common gene type of CF when she was just four years old. The first Crossing was undertaken by Piper’s dad, Travis, in 2013 to raise awareness of the disease. It took approximately 15 ½ hours for him to cross the 90 miles between the Bahamian island of Bimini to Riviera Beach, Florida.
After his interview, the organizers contacted Ben to see if he wanted to participate in their 80-mile paddleboard event that crosses the Gulf Stream from Bimini to Lake Worth, Florida.
“I heard the word ‘Bahamas,’ and I was like, 'Yep, I’m in!'” he said.
A healthy ocean for a healthy life
It wasn’t only the Bahamas that made Ben excited about this event. Several years ago, doctors in Australia noticed that surfers with cystic fibrosis had significantly healthier lungs and lower rates of infection than non-surfers. The doctors determined that inhaling saltwater mist has a powerful effect on rehydrating the lining of the lungs and allowing CF patients to eliminate bacteria-contaminated mucus more easily. What better way to demonstrate this information to others with CF than for Ben to hop on a board and cross?
Ben knows that he’s fortunate to enjoy good health, and needs to take advantage of it because he knows that there are many people with CF who can’t.
“With my health, it wouldn’t make sense for me to not do this event because there are so many people with CF who are incapable of doing anything like this,” he said.
Since this is his second year participating in the event, Ben knows what to expect. He’s a little concerned because he is heavier this year, but at least he knows what kind of physical and mental stamina he will need to complete the journey.
“I feel the right type of nervous and excited. They’re the same kind of energy. The difference is the mindset you approach with,” he said. “If you can flip that switch in your head, you can use the energy. This year, I’m more excited than nervous.”
Ben and 4ocean
Since Ben has always cared about the ocean, it's no surprise he found himself drawn to 4ocean’s bracelets and mission. He bought a bracelet and immediately started noticing when others around him wore one as well.
“It’s good looking and has a good story behind it. I pass people who are also wearing the bracelets and we wave at each other. It’s like a community.”
When we saw Ben wearing a 4ocean bracelet in a video after learning about his fantastic journey, we contacted him to see if he would be interested in becoming a brand ambassador.
Ben wearing a 4ocean bracelet
Ben was immediately interested because he understands and appreciates our mission to create a cleaner, healthier ocean. After all, a healthier ocean means healthier people, especially when it comes to those living with CF.
4ocean is also sponsoring a 4-person relay team in the Crossing for a Cure event. When we get some additional photography and video of those ocean warriors in action, we'll share their epic journey with you as well, so stay tuned!
If you want to give these heroes some encouragement, leave some words in the comment section below. Make sure to follow us on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to stay up to date on all things 4ocean! Also, head on over to our Discover 4ocean Facebook Group to get in on the conversation around ocean plastic pollution and other important ocean conservation topics.