Air Force Water Polo Player Swims the English Channel

Sept. 24, 2009

USAFA, Colo. - Before arriving at the Air Force Academy for basic training, many incoming cadets spend their last days as civilians taking it easy, relaxing with their friends and families. However, freshman water polo player Ryan Hogan took a much different approach this summer, embarking upon an experience that would provide a legitimate challenge, both mental and physical--one that would prepare him for the rigors of Academy life.

In June, Hogan, a native of Carson City, Nev., went on a quest to swim the English Channel, a feat that has been called the "Everest of open-water swimming". He was joined by high school friend Tatum Boehnke, who is currently a freshman on the women's swimming team at the University of Northern Colorado.

Hogan's interest in swimming the Channel was generated by participating in various other open-water events, including the Escape from Alcatraz swim, where he performed well.

"I was inspired to swim the Channel on my way back home from San Francisco after swimming the Escape from Alcatraz," said Hogan. "I ended up winning the non-wetsuit division and for some reason, I just asked my friend, `Why not the English Channel next?'"

While the decision to swim the English Channel seemed purely spontaneous, the duo did have a driving motivation. Hogan and Boehnke dedicated their swim to raising money for a local boy named Caden, a 3-year-old who had been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. Choosing a worthy cause to support certainly aided in getting the pair through a grueling training regimen.

To prepare for the English Channel swim, which is 21 miles at its shortest distance, Hogan and Boehnke trained mostly in Lake Tahoe and the San Francisco Bay. The two would take weekend trips to the Bay to swim for several hours in water temperatures that ranged from 49-55 degrees Fahrenheit. Because the Channel swim is completed without a wetsuit, Hogan and Boehnke adhered to that rule during their training, swimming through the cold to help their bodies get used to being in a mildly hypothermic stage.



The swim finally took place on June 13, 2009, shortly after the two attended their high school graduation. With the typical Channel Swimming season running from late June to late September/early October, the pair's swim took place much earlier than the norm. In fact, the Hogan and Boehnke were the first to complete the swim in 2009.

Because of the early date of the swim, the duo had its doubters. They were told that it was too cold to swim so early in the season. They were also reminded that a two-person relay can be even more difficult than a single swim, because of the rapid and frequent changes in body temperature.

Still, Hogan and Boehnke completed the swim, and did so in an impressive time of 10 hours and 40 seconds. Trading two-hour shifts in the water, the duo became the fastest male/female two-person relay to ever swim the Channel. Their swim time currently ranks second among special category swims in 2009, more than two hours faster than the average time for their category.

Of course, despite turning in such a respectable time, the swim was not without its challenges. Hogan's body was reacting to the poor conditions of the swim, demonstrating why only about 10 percent of individuals who attempt to swim across the Channel actually succeed.

"The worst part of the swim was about three hours before landing in France," said Hogan. "My body was in a hypothermic stage, and I was having trouble counting past 20."

"But the best part was when I landed in France," continued Hogan. "The feeling of accomplishment was second to none."

Not only did Hogan and Boehnke accomplish a feat that so few manage, their ultimate goal--raising money for the young Caden--was reached. Through their efforts, the duo raised approximately $5,000 for the child and his family, making their struggle worthwhile. In the meantime, both were left with an interesting tale to tell--"How I Spent My Summer Vacation."

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