10th annual English Channel Challenge for Children’s 2020–Noah Sarkin


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ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — Fayetteville resident, Steffan Sarkin, did a 45-mile Beaver Lake swim benefitting Arkansas Children’s Northwest — 100% of donations went to the hospital.

The swim took place October 17 and 18th.

Sarkin started the swim at 8:08 p.m. on October 17 and finished at 7:47 p.m., October 18, 23 hours and 39 minutes later.

It was called it, “the big dam(ned) swim,” for a reason!

Sarkin explained it’s in recognition of the 10th anniversary of a relay team of 24 swimmers who did the first ever continuous swim of the length of Beaver lake in September 2011.

Sarkin is the first person to do a solo continuous swim of the length of the lake.

For the last decade, the 60-year-old swims in appreciation of Children’s Hospital doing a successful emergency brain surgery for his then-11-year-old son, Noah.

The surgery was due to a 2009 soccer practice accident that left Noah with a massive head injury.

Sarkin made the decision to do a fundraiser with all proceeds going to the hospital. The first English Channel Challenge Swim was in 2011 as a “thank you.”

Swimming the English Channel will be happening again in September 2021 as he continues to swim for the cause.

Sarkin said the swim is a reminder of Noah’s injury from a positive perspective. “There is hardly a day since his injury that the injury is not thought about or talked about….not negatively but in celebration of the blessing. When I do the swim I think more about the ‘thank you’ to ACH and using my platform of swimming to help others.”

In addition to other programs, donations raised through the swim go to pay for the Children’s Northwest chaplains program and help families with costs of travel, lodging, and in-house kids programs. “So the kiddos can see their families and while stuck in a hospital they can feel like kiddos and not just patients,” said Sarkin.

In 10 years of the swim challenge, he’s raised at least $400,000 for the Children’s Hospital in Little Rock, and since 2018, proceeds go to Children’s Northwest.

Playing high school soccer five years after the surgery.


“To see Noah today gliding on the water or airborne, upside down or right-side up, one would never suspect what happened to him a few years back. On Tuesday, September 15, 2009, normal changed for Noah and his family. One minute he was at soccer practice and the next minute he was staring up at bright lights shining in his face, nurses coming from all sides, IVs in both arms, clothes being cut away, CT scan being administered, mom and dad at his side, soccer friends and coaches coming in and then going out. Nothing made any sense.

Just before 7 p.m. at soccer practice, the team was conducting a ball heading drill. When they were not doing it correctly, the coach decided to demonstrate the correct technique. The coach booted the ball in the air and ran after the ball. Noah, who was next in line, also took after the ball. They collided and Noah was knocked unconscious to the ground. Instead of heading the ball, the coach headed Noah fracturing his skull above his right ear.

The local hospital stabilized Noah and prepared him for a 2-hour ambulance ride to Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock, Arkansas for further observation. Unfortunately, on that night the weather conditions did not permit helicopters to fly. Upon arrival at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, a further CT scan showed that a large pool of blood had formed due to a ruptured artery between the skull and brain lining and that the brain was shifting off center-axis, that the situation was life-threatening and the need for emergency surgery was critical. Four pediatric neurosurgeons performed the operation, successfully cauterizing the artery and restructuring the fractured skull by reconnecting bone fragments with titanium plates and screws. Noah made an amazing recovery and following a year on injured reserve, he was released back to doing all his activities. What he has since accomplished both academically and in sport is a testament to the caliber and quality of Arkansas Children’s Hospital and its medical team. Since his accident, Noah has represented the Arkansas Children’s Hospital as a goodwill Ambassador sharing his story in the community by giving hope to other families and by inspiring donors and volunteerism.

englishchannelsolol.com website
Noah with Head Pediatric Neurosurgeon Dr. Ali Raja


“The English Channel (EC) is the sea so it’s saltwater versus freshwater.

Saltwater is much more abrasive to the body than freshwater and tastes bad compared to freshwater if swallowed by accident (common in rough conditions).

In the sea, tides play a huge factor. In the EC, the tide changes direction every six hours and so it is not possible to swim a straight line across. This is where the pilot boat is crucial insofar as they plot a course taking into consideration the tide to get the swimmer to the spot they want to finish which is lined up in a straight line from the start.

In the EC, the wind is also a huge factor as is ship traffic which creates very choppy conditions, swells, and unpredictable wave height.

On the lake, the wind is a huge factor and Beaver Lake is tricky because of the directional changes of the lake which create different impacts that can help push, be a headwind, and cut across. Both EC and BL have other boats to contend with except in the EC you are crossing the path of the boats which happen to be giant oil tankers, container ships (English Channel Swimming Explained, FAQ).

The Beaver Lake swim was longer because of the course I chose. For years I have wanted to be the ‘Master of my own lake,’ meaning swim the lake. I have previously done eight other long-distance swims on the lake (ranging from 16-31 miles) and variations of the same course.

A number of years ago, my craziest swim was when I did a solo swim without a support crew. I tugged a standup paddleboard with my gear, safety flags, lights, Go Pro, and swam 27 miles in 13 hours from the Dam to Horseshoe Bend and back to Prairie Creek.

Due to the impact of Covid-19 and pool closures, I trained exclusively in Beaver Lake. Even when pools reopened pool-time was rationed to allow for social distancing keeping me in the lake which proved fortuitous. I swam in every type of condition one could expect in the lake which gave me the mental confidence to attempt the longer distance. Long-distance swimming is definitely 80% mental.

Steffan Sarkin

On a personal note, Sarkin gave a shout out to KNWA/FOX24 Meteorologist Dan Skoff, “he’s  provided me weather forecasts over the years leading up to various swims I have done.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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