Nobody Swimmer to World Class

Sep 14, 2017

(Exeter, NH)— Picture a marathon swimmer. The visual probably does not include an ashen-faced athlete, bent at the waist, vomiting after their first 50-meter swim; however, that is precisely how Triple Crown swimmer, Bob Fernald, began his journey. Swimming was never on his radar. Fernald was encouraged by fellow athletes to complete a triathlon; reluctantly, he tried, but insisted that he was not a swimmer. After a 4-year hiatus, Fernald gave swimming another try, claiming: “Pilates taught me how to consciously control movement. I applied this to swimming, and found that I solved one of the hardest parts of swimming: body position.” Swimming almost felt effortless. Despite being able to train intensively without injury, he never looked at marathon swimming as a competition; it was about the accomplishment.

Even after a successful, 21-mile swim across the English Channel, Fernald had self-doubt about his newfound skill. He decided to swim the remaining two legs of the Triple Crown: 20.2 miles across the Catalina Channel and 28.5 miles around Manhattan Island. “I needed to prove to myself that I wasn’t a one-hit-wonder.” Despite a broken foot and hazardous swimming conditions, Fernald completed all three legs. “My Triple Crown journey was surreal; it was one of the greatest things to happen to me in my life.”

Now, Fernald nurtures success in others as an open-water-swim instructor, and as an active member of the open-water-swim community. “I wish I could bottle up what I have learned. If I could, I would give it to everyone. Thankfully, I can help local swim events raise money for their causes. Taking my passion, applying it, and seeing a non-profit benefit on a larger scale is incredibly fulfilling.” Fernald believes in the power of swimming, so he is committed to helping Southern District YMCA campaign for an Aquatic Center. “YMCAs positively influence the community by offering everyone a gathering point. Ys have a reputation for bringing people together and introducing them to sports and activities.” An aquatic center opens doors for Southern District YMCA, providing additional opportunities to impact lives through fitness, therapy, and recreation, and employment.

Swimming changed Bob Fernald’s life. Tapping into the potential of this incredible community can change the lives of others. Consider signing up for the October 1 Kingston Open Water Swim Challenge, held in Kingston Lake at YMCA Camp Lincoln, 67 Ball road, Kingston, NH, as a competitor or volunteer. Proceeds benefit the Southern District YMCA's campaign for an Aquatic Center. In Fernald’s words, “to any non-swimmer interested in swimming: hear my story. A nobody swimmer, to world class. If I can do it, so can you.” For more information about Southern District YMCA or the Open Water Swim, contact Amy at 603 319 5937, or visit

Southern District YMCA is a cause-driven organization that is for youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.