Navigating Open Waters with the Right Mentor – Such As Bridgette Hobart

dan simonelli

Navigating Open Waters with the Right Mentor – Such As Bridgette Hobart

Open-water racing is a truly different sport than racing in the pool. With no lane lines, contact from other swimmers, and marine life, there are so many things that can influence a race. Being good at this sport requires mental toughness beyond comparison, as conditions and other factors can change in an instant, and accomplishing this feat on your own can seem quite daunting. I have been fortunate enough to have an amazing mentor and role model: Bridgette Hobart.

How it Began

During the COVID summer of 2020, I truly missed swimming and open water racing, so I decided to sign up for a 20-kilometer swim in Seneca Lake. I was nervous, yet super excited because it was the longest distance I had ever attempted to swim. After placing third overall, I gained some attention from the event director, who happened to be Bridgette. She was really impressed with my swim, and we started talking about what other open-water events I had done. Little did I know, her open-water resume was unbelievably impressive.

After hearing race stories and reading more about her swims, I was truly inspired. Seeing her complete swims such as the English Channel, the Catalina Channel, and the Manhattan Island Marathon in incredible times and winning the 2015 Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year Award made me feel so fortunate to meet her. We have even had similar experiences, as she attended a Cornell Swim Camp in 1979 and did the same swim across Cayuga Lake that I did just last month. She even said that very swim inspired her long career in open-water swimming.

50 Years in the Making

Now, Bridgette is attempting another great feat. She wants to celebrate the 50th year of her swimming career by attempting to swim the English Channel double once more. Completing this swim would be a full circle moment for Bridgette and it would allow her to fulfill the promise she made to herself at just 11 years old. It would also put her in line to be the oldest person to complete this swim.

Hearing about this attempt inspired me even further. I hope to participate in some of the same swims she has done, including all nine Finger Lakes and the Eight Bridges Hudson River swim. Maybe one day I’ll even swim the English Channel. Either way, I know I can always count on Bridgette to support me, and I hope to give back to the future of open-water swimmers and inspire them just as she did for me.

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