Local professor the first to swim completely around Folly Island

By Lorne Chambers | Editor

For several years, College of Charleston professor Brian Lanahan has contemplated an attempt to swim around Folly Island. He was told repeatedly that it was impossible for various reasons — timing the tides, navigating Folly’s inlets, oyster beds, the fishing pier, sharks, jellyfish, and so forth. But on May 18, with the guidance of Will McKenzie of Tight Line Outfitters, Lanahan became the first person to accomplish this feat. It took him 6 hours and 33 minutes to complete the 16-mile loop. But he did it, earning his spot in Folly lore for years to come.

“I love Folly! When I asked folks about it, it appeared that no one had ever done it. I was also told it was impossible,” says Lanahan. “But I thought, ‘if people can kayak around the island I can swim around it.’ And I was lucky that Captain Will believed it was possible too.”

Lanahan says the swim actually went better than expected because they were able to time the tides just right and the wind helped push him the last two hours. “Having a support boat versus a kayak made it mentally easier because I knew I was safe the whole time,” said Lanahan, who has done at least half a dozen swims of this length of time, either in training or racing.

“I failed twice at swimming the English Channel before this swim,” says Lanahan. “If anything I learned how to get back up after two big disappointments with the help of friends and family and I am grateful for their support.” Lanahan gives a lot credit to his girlfriend Sophia Rodriquez, who helped him train for the swim and prepare his food on the boat.

According to Lanahan, the training for the swim was intense. “I actually was only able to seriously prepare for the swim for about two months. I am coming off an illness that made it difficult to do the necessary work,” he says. “But I was able to get in eight solid weeks of training leading up to the swim.”

Going out the Stono inlet was the toughest part for Lanahan. “Because of the chop, I thought the boat was going to have to leave me for minute so Will (McKenzie) could find the channel, but in the end I was able to stay close to the boat and we found our way out,” says Lanahan, who says he doesn’t have any big swims planned in the near future.

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