Bryan Huffman - Holland to Grand Haven
Holland to Grand Haven
31.3 km (19.4 miles)
10 hours, 5 minutes on 31 July 2022
Observed and documented by J. Stilwell + B. Rockafellow
- Name: Bryan Huffman
- Gender: male
- Age on swim date: 48
- Nationality: United States
- Resides: Holland, Michigan
- Trent Bruins - boat pilot
- Stacy Huffman - crew/feeder
- Barrett Huffman - crew/feeder
- Jael Stilwell - Holland Masters Swim Team member participating in both pool practices and open water events. Previous high school and college swimmer.
- Brent Rockafellow - Holland Masters Swim Team member participating in both pool practices and open water events. Triathlete.
|unnamed||21 Four Winns Horizon||Holland, MI|
- Category: Solo, nonstop, unassisted.
- Rules: MSF Rules of Marathon Swimming, without exception or modification.
- Equipment used:
- Body of Water: Lake Michigan
- Route Type: one-way coastal
- Start Location: Holland State Park Pavilion (42.774663, -86.212201)
- Finish Location: Grand Haven State Park Pavilion (43.054396, -86.24771)
- Minimum Route Distance: 31.3 km (19.4 miles) (map)
This is the second recorded swim from Holland to Grand Haven in Lake Michigan. The first was by Nick Hobson of the UK while he was residing in Holland and active in the Holland Masters Swim Team. Nick logged his swim with the Marathon Swim Federation on September, 4 2018. He is known to have completed this swim more than one time. My solo swim was done simultaneous with a relay event, The Hobson Memorial Swim, in Nick’s honor. Nick died tragically earlier this year on February 24, 2022, at age 41, while swimming back to his escort boat immediately after completion of a successful crossing of the Cook Straight in New Zeeland in 10 hours and 30 minutes.
- Start: 31 July 2022, 06:39:50 (Eastern Daylight Time, America/Detroit, UTC-7).
- Finish: 31 July 2022, 16:44:59
- Elapsed: 10 hours, 5 minutes, 9 seconds.
Summary of Conditions
|Water Temp (F)||74||81|
|Air Temp (F)||67||80|
Trackpoint frequency: 20 minutes. Download raw data (CSV).
by Bryan Huffman
Inspiration and Journey
Two years ago, I decided to make an attempt at crossing the English Channel. I was an accomplished swimmer in high school, and had held 7 school records. I did olympic distance triathlons in college, and then did not participate in any competitive swimming for about 25 years. I had gone from a swimmer to a ‘swammer”.
Each year in July, my family takes a week long vacation on the shore of Lake Michigan at the Conference Grounds campground. While bored at the beach (I’m not a sitter), I decided to see how far I could comfortably swim. The first year (2019), I swam about 3/4 of a mile down the beach and back for a total of 1.5 miles. It felt pretty good. The next year (2020), I repeated my swim, but this time a bit over a mile each way. I had always had a dream of swimming the English Channel, but was always too busy with life to really get serious about it. I had looked a bit into what was involved; but after that second summer swim at the Conference Grounds, I got more serious about it. Late that summer I announced my thoughts to my wife. In August of 2020 I set off to swim across Lake Macatawa where I have a home. It is about a half mile trip. One of my sons accompanied me in a kayak so that I wouldn’t get run over by a boat or drown. I kept swimming a few times a week, going a bit farther each time. My goal was to swim the length of Lake Macatawa, Dutton Park to the channel, by the end of the fall. On September 26, 2020 I swam the 5.2 mile length of Lake Mac in 3:28 with my son Quinten in a kayak beside me. That is when I booked my charter boat for the English Channel for October of 2022 (the best date I could get two years out). Soon the water in Lake Mac dropped below 60 and I joined the local pool, the Holland Aquatic Center. It is a world class facility with multiple indoor pools, including an Olympic sized pool. I swam hard over the winter, too hard in fact, as I injured my shoulder due to poor technique. By spring, I had recovered, and repeated my full length Lake Mac swim in a much faster 2:52 with a water temp of 61 and air temp of 39. My son Barrett practically froze in the Kayak. Two weeks later I did a Lake Mac double, 8.75 Miles in 5.3 hours (starting from my house instead of the park).
While at the aquatic center I met several other swimmers. I would often see a fellow swimmer, Mike Landis, at the pool. Mike invited me to swim open water with the Masters swim team. I swam with them for the first time July 31, 2021. I was initially a bit intimidated to swim with the “Master’s”, but found they were a great group of people. They were training for the Big Shoulders race in Chicago, and I quickly signed up for the race. I swam with them on Saturdays for the rest of the summer, and kept swimming on my own the rest of the week. Through the Masters team, I met one of their coaches, Mike Daley. After the Big Shoulders race that fall, I contacted Mike about possibly coaching me for the channel. I had not yet told any of my fellow swimmers what I was training for. Mike agreed to coach me. He helped fix issues with my stroke to prevent a repeat of my shoulder injury, and has spent the last year getting me ready for the channel. In the process, I have become good friends with many of my fellow Masters swimmers. Some will be accompanying me to England along with Coach Mike for my big swim.
As part of preparing for my English Channel swim, I researched several possible local swims. Although I am fairly certain I am not the first to have swam Lake Macatawa or some of the other local swims, I could not find any record of other long swims, except one. Nick Hobson had swam from Holland to Grand Haven just a few years before. I researched Nick on line and discovered he had also been involved with the only mid lake relay across Lake Michigan (50+ miles), and was training for a solo crossing of Lake Michigan. I wanted to meet this guy, and discovered he lived in Holland! I inquired about him at the aquatic center, and they noted he had been a member. When I started to swim with the Masters team, I kept hearing his name and the stories of his exploits. It turns out I had just missed Nick. Nick was originally from the UK and had moved to New Zeeland, where his wife was from, to be closer to her family. I found out that Mike Daley had been his coach, which was a big factor in my approaching Mike about coaching me. Many of the swimmers on the team knew Nick very well. We were all excited to learn in the spring of 2022 that Nick was going to swim the Cook Straights in his new home, New Zeeland. I knew this was a serious swim, similar to the English Channel, and one of the Oceans Seven swims. I was excited to hear about his swim; and Coach Mike and I were hoping that once he finished, he could give us some wisdom for my channel swim. Several of us watched Nick’s track as he crossed the Cook Straight. Two swimmers started, and the other swimmer stopped about 2/3 of the way across. They seemed to have been carried quite off course by the unpredictable currents. Nick kept going. By then, it was getting late on our side of the world, and I went to bed. When I awoke the next morning, I was excited to see he had made it! The strong current had doubled his expected time, but he had finished! It was the talk of the pool the next morning at Masters practice. Everyone was excited, especially my friends Paul and Marissa Brinks, and Bill Blair. Later that day we received a very unexpected call from Coach Mike. Nick had completed the swim, but while swimming back to the boat, he lost consciousness and died. Everyone was in total shock.
This solo swim from Holland to Grand Haven is dedicated to Nick Hobson. I never met Nick in person, but feel like I knew him. He is a big part of the swimming community here in Holland. I have heard so many stories about Nick, that I feel like I knew him. I feel as if I have been following in his footsteps for the past year, with similar goals and the same group of friends. I was looking to meet Nick to get information about how to certify a swim with the Marathon Swim Federation and get any pointers he was willing to share about local long distance swims. He shared all that and much more through all the people he touched and inspired while swimming here in Holland, in Scotland, and in New Zeeland. My solo swim was a part of a much bigger event, The Nick Hobson Memorial Swim. It included dozens of local swimmers swimming relays between Holland, and Grand Haven (20 miles) on July 31, 2022, and a second swim between Holland and Port Sheldon (9 miles) on August 27, 2022. Paul Brinks and I swam solo for the second swim as well. I anticipate the Holland Masters Swimmers will be submitting more swims for certification by the Marathon Swim Federation in future Hobson Memorial Swims. It is very fitting that my swim coincidentally finished in the same 10 hours and 5 minutes as Nick’s swim 4 years before. Nick’s swim didn’t record the seconds, and so stands at 10:05:00. I am quite sure that Nick was a better swimmer than I; and it is fitting that he retains the record for both the first recorded Holland to Grand Haven swim, and the fastest, by 9 seconds.
The Hobson Memorial Swim(s)
The swim had been planned for Thursday, July 28. We had about 2 dozen swimmers and several boats ready to accompany our group. Everyone was excited about the first Hobson Memorial Swim. The weather had other plans. July 28 had brisk winds and 5 ft waves. The lake was predicted to calm down overnight, and our backup day for the swim was Friday the 29th. Friday we loaded swimmers into boats and headed out to the lake to find 3-4 ft waves, a bit questionable for swimming and definitely dangerous for most of our boats. We ended up going to breakfast instead and brainstorming on what to do next. The weather looked good for Sunday, July 31, but many people couldn’t do that date. Through polling our group, we found that August 27 was the next best date. We decided to make one Hobson Memorial Swim into two swims.
The morning of the 31st was absolutely gorgeous. When we met at 6:30 AM outside the Holland Channel, the sun was coming up and the air was in the mid 70’s. The lake was calm and around 75 degrees. A perfect day for swimming. There was a slight wind out of the south that would likely give us a little helpful current. Forecasts showed a beautiful day with a predicted .25 knot current pushing us north.
The swim started out great. The relay was running out of one boat, while I swam with my own boat. I started on shore near the Holland State Park Pavilion, and planned to finish at the Grand Haven Pavilion, just as Nick had done. I felt a bit stiff the first mile (which is typical for me), but by the end of mile 2 I was feeling in the zone. The first 2 miles of the swim, between Tunnel Park and Holland State Park, is my home stomping zone, where I swim very regularly. I was trialing a new nutrition plan for the English Channel. Before then my nutrition was not very well planned. I had done on-line research, and found a lot of great information at Hammer Nutrition’s web site. I decided to go with their products. My main concern was that most of their products were back ordered, including the main feeding product I was planning on using, Perpetuem. The only flavor I could get was Caffe Latte. I am not a coffee drinker, and I was worried I would have trouble with this flavor. Fortunately, the flavoring was quite mild and worked great. I used the same regimen on the second Hobson Swim, and will also use it in England.
I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I made it to the Port Sheldon Pier. Port Sheldon to Holland was previously the longest swim I had done (9 miles). I thought this was the half way point. It turns out I was a bit off and there were 11 miles to go. The only section of the swim I had never done was Port Sheldon to Kirk Park. I had avoided that area because of the power plant intake. There is a large coal power plant in this stretch that has both and intake and exhaust pipe for water from the lake. Nick also mentioned this in his swim summary. The outlet pipe makes a large current at the surface which is a popular fishing spot. There is a legend that a scuba diver was once sucked into the intake pipe and came up in a retention pond inside the plant property (according to the story he survived). I’m not sure if this story is true, and I highly doubt the intake would suck a swimmer from the surface, but I didn’t want to find out the hard way that I was wrong. As it turns out, I don’t even know when I passed by the pipes. I never perceived any difference.
I felt great until about mile 15. At that point, my shoulders started to be sore. The ibuprofen in my feeding regimen helped, but I was sore the last few miles. The last section was near the Conference Grounds camp ground, where I had started swimming again. I had swam there many times, but was a little unclear about some of the distances between points. At Kirk Park, I thought I had about 5 miles to go, it is actually closer to 7. This was a little demoralizing as I slowly realized I was wrong. As I kept swimming, I realized my error. By then I was getting sore and looking for the end. It felt great to finish. The relay team had kept remarkably close the entire way. I had expected we would end up separated by miles, but we finished minutes apart. The whole group was waiting for me at the end. We all swam to the pavilion together for a group picture on the shore and lots of high 5’s and fist bumps. The beach was full of people on such a nice day. I’m sure they wondered where all these crazy swimmers had come from. Wisconsin??
I was quite tired and sore after the swim, but relieved I had made it. It has made me much more confident about England. The original plan was to repeat the same swim on August 27. My shoulders remained sore for several weeks after the first swim. I felt it hindered my effort in practice for a good 3 weeks. My coach and I decided to shorten the swim from Holland to Port Sheldon for the second swim as to not risk injury or impair my upcoming training. The rest of the group was also keen on a shorter swim. Paul Brinks, one of my fellow swimmers whom I am usually trying to keep up with in practice, also decided to solo Holland to Port Sheldon. He slowed down a bit to stay with me, and I pushed a bit harder on this swim than the first. Knowing I was doing a shorter swim, I swam 10 miles earlier in the week. I was tired and sore after the swim, but felt recovered within days instead of weeks. We had two relay boats on the second swim. The water was a much cooler 62 for the second swim, but I felt very comfortable without a wet suit. There is already talk of another Hobson Memorial Swim next year. Paul wore a wet suit for his swim, or we may have submitted his swim as well. I had already recorded Holland to Port Sheldon as part of my first swim, so I didn’t choose to submit the second swim. I hope in next year’s event we can submit several swims for certification by the Marathon Swim Federation.
Click to enlarge.