Ever hear the joke about the swimmer who tried to cross Lake Michigan, made it more than halfway across before deciding he was too tired, so he swam back?
Maybe we shouldn't jest about things like that. I once did a story about the Lake County Diving and Rescue Squad and was informed that many drowning victims make similar mistakes: they swim great open-water distances with a targeted shore or pier in sight before giving up and tragically turning back.
During a 38 hour, 37 minute time span in August of 1981, region native Jon Erickson swam across the English Channel once, took a short break before swimming back across, then back across again becoming the first of only three swimmers to successfully achieve a triple-crossing.
Erickson, 59, now lives in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He was a physical education teacher at Spohn Middle School in Hammond, and a swim coach at Clark High School during the 1970s and 1980s.
This weekend, Erickson is being inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame during its 50th-annual induction ceremonies taking place in Fort Lauderdale.
Erickson was inducted in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame in 1981 shortly after the triple-crossing. Erickson's father, Ted Erickson -- an educator himself and former senior chemist at the Illinois Institute of Technology where he earned two patents -- preceded his son in being enshrined by the IMS HOF.
The elder Erickson became the first person to swim across Lake Michigan in 1961, and later set an English Channel double-crossing record, which eventually was broken by his son.
When Jon Erickson made his first Channel crossing in 1969, he became the youngest swimmer to complete such a feat (14 years old) as he and his dad became the first father-son duo to successfully swim across the Channel.
Jon Erickson has made 11 English Channel crossings. He has participated in 31 professional marathon swims in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Argentina, and has twice swam the 37-mile distance spanning Chicago from Michigan City -- best time was 19-and-a-half hours.
Nearly 20 years earlier, Erickson's father swam the same span but in nearly twice the time -- though rough water hampered the effort while often pushing the elder Erickson off course.