Ben Katzman on his way to breaking a world record. Photo: Andrew Revelos, Deputy Public Affairs Officer, Naval Support Activity South Potomac.

Va. Navy Sailor Breaks Record for Swimming While Handcuffed

Last week, active-duty Navy corpsman Ben Katzman, 32, unofficially but forcefully broke the Guinness World Record for distance-swimming while handcuffed.

Stationed at the U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) on the Potomac just below the Route 301 Bridge, he had trained all fall and winter in the base’s pool. He made his record attempt at the nearby King George YMCA, watched carefully by the center’s aquatics director and her lifeguards.

Videographer Cathy Binder, a member of the King George County Board of Supervisors, recorded all 344 laps (5.35 miles) for submission of the record swim to Guinness, along with photos and a logbook of his lap times.

Katzman pushes off the wall to start a new lap as lifeguards and lap-counters look on. Photo: Andrew Revelos

Katzman’s proud father came all the way from Idaho to serve as a witness, kneeling beside the pool to notify his son when he broke the old record (3.4 miles). Katzman, who has loved swimming all his life, was so fired up for the record assault that he just kept swimming to nearly the four-hour shift
time limit for official observers set by Guinness, thus exceeding the previous mark by 60 percent.

Katzman keeps a light-hearted bucket list of challenges for himself, including running an ultramarathon (done) and diving on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef (on the horizon). Setting a world record was one, so he combed the Guinness record book for swimming, and the handcuffed category appeared to make the most sense. In training, he worked out sequences of strokes modified for use with handcuffs, including scissor and dolphin
kicks, glides, and a double-arm pull that brought his face up to the surface to take breaths.

While Katzman is an active-duty sailor, he trained for and swam the Guinness world record challenge on his own time. Even so, Navy colleagues at Dahlgren were well aware of his feat. Andrew Revelos, the base’s deputy public affairs officer, commented that “He was in that mental and physical zone that define endurance athletes and elite military teams. He’s an inspiration for us at NSF Dahlgren and across the Navy.”

-John Page Williams