Meet Ben Lecomte, world class swimmer, mega goal-setter and now on a mission to raise awareness around the world about sustainability and ocean pollution. What kind of success mindset does it take to do this? Find out when we chat!
“I remember.. when I was a little kid.. I was building my sand castle and didn’t find any plastic, in, on any beach. So, that got my attention and I realized what was very important for me, was to use what I love to do… and to bring attention to the problem.”– Ben Lecomte
And we’re live on July 17, 2020! Right. Better, late than never, we’re here. And it’s a 20 minutes in lockdown and it is mid July. And I truthfully thought we’d be a lot further along by now. Here we are. And, um, as things kind of go up and down, a lot of us are going back into isolation, which I didn’t think was going to happen so soon. So I have a guest here that knows all about that and probably can give us some tips on how to deal, um, with, I think some of the, the most isolating circumstances, and I think you’ll find his story pretty inspiring too. So this is Ben Lecomte who is a world class swimmer, and he has done something really amazing. He swam across the Atlantic ocean! I’m going to say -start there. Um, why don’t you tell us a little bit also about your history and when you, you know, when you decided to, to, I guess, become a swimmer and then how this goal came to be, because you don’t just wake up one day and say I’m going to swim across an ocean!
Yeah, no, I didn’t start like that. I mean, I’m more an adventurer than a swimmer. So I wasn’t inspired by a, seeing a person rowing across the Atlantic. So it was about in the eighties or nineties and, uh, I did a swim in the Atlantic in 98, which is a drift swim. So you have different classification of swim, you know, drift, swim, and stage swim and so on. So this one was a drift. Swim. And I needed to raise awareness and fund for cancer research because my father had passed away from cancer at a very early age. And that was very important for me to, to try to do that in his memory. And then after, you know, I keep on swimming and keep on seeing the difference, uh, in plastic, difference in the number of fish and sea life that you see. So I was very inspired to do something. And the past few years that was geared toward that to raise awareness about, uh, the last week about ocean pollution. Because right now, you know, I am now a father and I’d be concerned about what type of environment we are going to leave to our kids and, uh, that was really what inspired me to do three math during the. In the Pacific ocean and through the great Pacific garbage patch.
Yeah. And I want to ask you about that, but when you talk about a swimming across the Atlantic, first of all, I think a lot of people have questions on how exactly does that work? I mean, you don’t just jump in and go, I mean, how do you plan a route and, and how long did that take you?
Yeah. So it took me a long time to prepare it because, you know, you cannot find a, a hard copy. I don’t like things done something like that. And of course you need to have a team. So I had a support board following me. I was sleeping on the boat and the next morning I was jumping in the water and swimming and they were following me. And then after you have to take advantage of whatever you can. So try to stay in the main Qur’an the golf stream, which is a very strong grant in the Atlantics. It’s what we did and had a router online that was on, uh, on land, er, uh, doing all the analysis of the current of the wind, where we get the most push out of it because swimming, you don’t move that fast.
That’s that’s amazing. And so you’re in the water. How many hours per day?
About the eight hours, you know, depending on the weather conditions, uh, and, uh, my condition also, but I try to stick to eight hours because for me, I’m just focusing on that particular day I don’t think about the next day or how many miles I have to swim to finish. I just focused on that. And at the end of the day, Eight days, eight hours. I said once I hit that check mark, I have done what I was supposed to do.
All right. So you’re in the water. It’s I imagine it’s black. Okay. You’re in the middle of nowhere. How, how do you deal and how do you, how do you prepare for that kind of isolation? Because that, that is what I mean, aside from the physicality of it, I don’t think I could ever do anything like that. But, um, I guess mentally, I think you can train your body to do a lot. Um, but your mind is a different story so what are, what are some of the tips that you could share? I guess, of the, of how you prepare, because that’s a lot of time alone.
Yeah. I think mine, like the body can be trained. So you need to find out exactly what, uh, you are and your identity and what your strong points are and the weaknesses, and build upon that. When I did the swim in 98, when the Atlantic for me, I wasn’t in the right mindset. Because all I wanted to do is to finish it, finish it, finish it. So it was very painful and difficult. So it took me 73 days to do the crossing and doing all those 73 days I was fighting. I didn’t take the time to enjoy what I was doing to take the time to really uh, get everything in. When I was swimming, it was all right time for him to push and push and push it. You know what I find when you are young, you try to get it through and as much as possible. And then after when you age, you have a different airport. And I cultivated the years because I realized that trying to get out of it; It’s not possible. So you had to change your mindset in order to say, okay, I’m going to be here. What can I do to enjoy what I am doing? I am right now in an amazing environment, doing very unique things that very few people have the opportunity to do. So what can I do to enjoy that and to a very taking it one minutes at a time. So I had to, to do all that, to, to switch my approach and to try to live day by day. And like I mentioned earlier, not to think about what it’s going to be the next day to cover off on just the, has it can’t and let it happen. Not try to control what you can not control-very important also to do a two categories, you know, what I can control and what I cannot control. Why, if you are a confining isolation, and if it’s something you have to do, that’s something that, again, not control or thinking and being upset about it, not going to change. So you have to change your mindset and focus on the white you can control, and we find it that’s what you can control a lot is the way you approach things. Your attitude makes a big difference.
That is so interesting. What you said there’s so many of us are struggling with it this whole, like, I mean, I don’t think this experience has meant to be enjoyed. I think, you know, it’s quarantine and, and this, this, this all pandemic, but a lot of us are living in the same way. We’re saying, okay, is this going to end? And we wake up the next day, is it going to end? Sure how much further, and we’re trying to get, at least you knew which point you were trying to get you, you know, like what was it part of the world or the other? None of us know. So we’re basically the swimming every day, we’re getting frustrated and, you know, there’s, there’s just no way. And so we wake up not being able to, to focus on other things, but more focused on anger or, you know, just sadness over that we can’t fast forward. It that’s interesting. Cause sometimes you just have to enjoy. What you have around you? Um, you know, and when you, I mean, were there, what kind of stuff did you think about? I think like I’ve told people you’re starting, it’s like, gosh, what did, did he get to construct a novel when he was doing that? Did he, did you write a screenplay in your head or is it just mantras? Like what, what happens when you’re in blackness? You know, and you’re, and you’re in cold water?
So it was all, all of the above, but you have to realize that eight hours a day, I was by myself looking at the same blue background, uh, hearing the same noise, fitting those STEM water on my fingers, having got the nasty salted death in my mouth. So for eight hours. So I had to, uh, disconnect my mind for my body. And what I did is that even before going in the water, I had a schedule of what that was going to do with my mind. Throughout the day. So I was focusing for example, the first hour into really being a moment that I have lived in the past with my family and then the next hour I was going to try to solve a problem. And then the next hour I was going to try my, make my own movies. You know, at the time I hadn’t been in New York, I was trying to visualize how it will be uh, in New York, what type of experience that would have to be. But every time I was doing those exercise, what was very important it’s to engage all your senses. So once you relieve a moment, you try to remember the smell around you. Try to remember if you were outside. Was it windy? Could I feel the sun on my skin or not? And the most, uh, uh, most you are going to be engaged like that. The easiest is going to be to disconnect your mind from your body. And then to a point that you are going to feel that you are back into that moment and really thing it, and time is going to compress very fast. So that’s what I was trying to do; you know, get my mind, engage in to try to have my mind somewhere else. My body wasn’t in autopilot and then I was going full time. Like I didn’t see the time pass by.
I love that. All right, so fast forward. You did the Atlantic and then you decided to do the Pacific, and you said you wanted to call attention to, um, you know, environmental issues, cleanliness and the oceans or lack thereof. Tell us how that that project started. And then also what happened, because I know that that mission had to be aborted?
Yeah. So, uh, throughout the years, and I was swimming with my kids and going on the beach and then I. Play with them on the beach and realize that we found plastic everywhere. We found plastic in France, in Europe, in the U S everywhere where green. But I remember at the same time that when I was a little kid, I didn’t have that experience that I was building my castle and you don’t find any plastic in, uh, in the. And any beach. So, uh, that got my attention and I realized that what was very important for me is to use what I love to do, which is those advantages of being in the water and the openness like that, and to bring attention to, uh, the problem. Um, and the, uh, first path was to try to grab the attention. So when you say, Oh, there is a crazy guys to a mayor across the notion that you grabbed the attention, but then after you, uh, focus on what is important. So, uh, we’re showing with a multi-polar type of media, what we’re finding. And at the same time, we had a multipoint protocol to follow, to collect data. Scientific partners.
Okay. So you started the swim and where did you begin from?
So it started in Japan. So it was in 2018 in June. And then, uh, you know, very early on, we had bad weather and because we had by typhoon two big one that we couldn’t avoid so we had to go back into Tokyo uh, twice. And then after we started over again, and unfortunately that pushed us and, uh, uh, bad weather window in the late part of the fall. When you starting having depression after depression passing by, unfortunately it puts a lot of stress on the board and rebroke the mainsail and when it was broken, uh, we had to do a to stop. We couldn’t, you know, uh, pursue and try to finish the swim. Which was very frustrating for me because I was very motivated, physically doing very well. And, uh, yeah, so I had swim, uh, uh, over 27 kilometers and had to stop. Uh, but, uh, and we went to, uh, to Hawaii at that point.
Alright, that’s an interesting hight note too. How, what are some of the tactics you use to deal with that? Because I know plenty of people who had, you know, their heart set on races, it could be events and people were getting married. You know, all of these things were out of everyone’s control, just like a typhoon, um, you know what happens, especially after you work so hard. Um, and that’s not something you can just, you know, replan very easily, you know, like you can decide to run 30 miles like another day, that kind of thing but I mean, that kind of operation is difficult. How are some of the ways that you, you dealt with that because I think it applies to, to help people are feeling now just with everything.
Yeah. First, I have to realize that don’t and I didn’t have any control over the situation. So I couldn’t be upset about something that happened. You don’t have any control. If I know it was upsetting, but I couldn’t have that drawn into my mind and that would mean the bad spin. So I had to realize that. And then after I had to refocus on the purpose, what was I doing? So I know that part of the expedition that is about the adventure and trying to push the limit and trying to, uh, uh, break a world record and that’s part of it, but it wasn’t really the main purpose.
The main purpose was to engage people. The main purpose was to collect that data. The main purpose was to try to show, uh, the, the, the problem that we are. So with that in mind, They give us the, uh, we are, and the idea of pursuing that part of the adventure or that part of the mission. So we plan on doing another expedition the following years, because on, in 2018, since we couldn’t go through all the way to California, we couldn’t do the scream through the garbage patch, the grace Pacific garbage patch, which is a big focus on the expedition. So we decided on the following year to do just that, to do a scream strictly in the garbage patch and to go into different areas and following the DPRK ads that the scientists told us to collect data so it’s what we focused on after. So once we had the new focus, you know, it was easier to deal with a situation. And to be a less as a, as a well that’s failure, basically.
Absolutely! Because you learn from everything. And I think what you, you know, like you said, what you had accomplished already was pretty huge. Now tell us what the garbage patch, that’s a huge thing that’s on your mind. I think a lot of people don’t know what that is.
Yeah. So it’s called like that because it’s a concentration of current that comes and a big vortex, a minor that circulate a water that come from the Northern part of the, uh, the Pacific. But you have five gyre like that in the entire world. Big ones. You have two in the Pacific two in the Atlantic and one in the ocean. Uh, And, you know, Shan, and, but the one in between why and California is the biggest one, or, you know, so I missed you made this twice as big as the state of Texas. And then what is very important is that in that area, that’s where you will feel, uh, find the highest concentration of microplastic. So what plastic does it becomes, uh, a left, um, at the, under the effect of the sun and all that; it will break down into small particles and when they are five millimeters or smaller than they are called microplastic. So here, because of the aspect of the current, on bringing waters in that area and concentrated all the debris you have, they are high concentration of microplastic.
Interesting and you know, I’m in tourism. So I think this is a, it’s a question we’ve been asking ourselves, but with everybody slowing down and people not visiting or, you know, certain places, or there’s not over tourism, or there’s not, you know, a lot of waste being produced. I mean, do you think that I’m meeting one of the silver linings of this pandemic is that we might have cleaner oceans?
Unfortunately, I think it’s the opposite from what I’ve heard from experts that said that right now we are using more plastic because when you, uh, um, are, are afraid of contamination; you take a piece of plastic that you are going to throw, and you know, it’s not a, like a handbag that you are going to reuse and you have new contamination now because of gloves that are being used and thrown out and being thrown in and you can also, so I think it’s a, not in the good way. And then I think also you have laws that have been turned off about a single use plastic that went back to being able to use single use plastic. And if I’m correct, I might be wrong; I think San Francisco they were banned, uh, shopping bags, uh, that just reversed; now it’s allowed to have plastic shopping bags, which wasn’t allowed before.
Oh, okay. I didn’t know that, I can see that. I didn’t think of it that way. So what do you do moving forward? I mean, you know, especially, I guess hopefully when things clear up, do you have a, another mission planned or, I mean, what will you do to carry that message along and make sure people don’t forget it?
Yeah, I’m always very interested in doing the same thing, saying, you know, going in the middle of the ocean, going to places where usually people don’t go and think that, oh, it’s over there. We don’t care about it and to show that we are affecting this important, uh, ecosystem and, uh, especially, you know, w I think that by going to nice places, like in the Seychelles, also in the Polynesian Island, you’re not going to find the plastic because of pristine, but I want to shine the light there and to, uh, collect some data, to show that there’s plastic everywhere, microplastic everywhere, and go to Antarctica also because you all think, Oh, there is no human living there, but we found microbes but we would find microplastic there as well. So it’s an ongoing battle and, you know, I want to engage and to hopefully have the opportunity to do that after we are in a better place right now with COVID taking a hold of everything even being at sea, it’s difficult. Okay. It’s hard to imagine, but it really has paused everything well.
Where can people learn more about your upcoming missions? What’s your website? Um, my website is BenLecomte.com um, it needs to be updated right now as I’m still talking about the last expedition. So I still have some work to do there, but anything that we come in the upcoming months will be updated.
Excellent. Well, thank you so much for sharing some insight into your mindset. I’m sure it helps a lot of people have a great day in Stacy. Thank you very much for having me.