Rowing Along with Ryan Hurd
Unlike many of SRT’s heroes, Ryan Hurd’s story began at a very early age. In April of 1981 at the age of 5, Ryan was running along side of a riding lawnmower when he fell in front of its path.
“Four weeks and four operations later, I returned home as an above-knee amputee”, said Ryan. “In my opinion, growing up as an amputee is much easier than being an amputee later in life. You adjust and learn to live with things at an early age. Kids are resilient!”
Ryan grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and moved to Brownsburg, Indiana in 2001. He has worked with Kevin Hagemeier at Action Brace & Prosthetic (now SRT Prosthetics) for nearly 12 years.
“Kevin has been seeing me ever since I have been in Indianapolis. Kevin and the SRT family do not see people as patients, but rather who they really are: fathers, sons, spouses and rowers”, says Ryan. “That’s what makes SRT special and I will always be grateful for everything they have done for me”.
“At the age of 30, I came to the realization that I could no longer count on my youth to keep me trim and in shape”, stated Ryan. “I joined a local gym and began riding the stationary bike and lifting some weights. I didn’t particularly enjoy the bike, but it was the only piece of cardio equipment that I could easily operate with my prosthesis. After about a year of riding a bike to nowhere, I stumbled upon an old Concept2 Model B indoor rower at a YMCA. I instantly knew it was a perfect match. I was seated and didn’t have to worry about my leg getting in the way. I felt like I was actually rowing in a real boat. For the next year, I plugged away at the indoor rower several times a week. In January 2010, my wife noticed an article in the newspaper about an indoor competition sponsored by the Indianapolis Rowing Center (IRC). I decided it would be a good opportunity to meet other rowers. During the event, I enjoyed watching the competitors and talking to fellow rowers, including several members of the IRC. They all encouraged me to enroll in a Learn-to-Row class in the spring to get on to the water. The following June, I did exactly that and became instantly hooked. At the conclusion of the class, I joined the IRC Masters program and have been practicing and competing with them ever since”.
“When I’m on the water, I concentrate so hard on what I am doing that I rarely think of anything else”, says Ryan. “It’s a good break from all of the chaos that life can bring. It’s also a great team sport and my teammates are great to row with. The Masters team is co-ed with rowers in their 20’s all the way up to their 70’s”.
When asked if he felt that rowing as an amputee was more challenging, Ryan replied, “I definitely don’t have the power that the other rowers can produce, so I have to compensate by constantly working on my technique and efficiency. So far, after 3 years of rowing, I have not had any knee or hip problems”.
Ryan’s team, the Indiana Rowing Center, typically uses 8-person sweep shell (boats), a 4-person sweep shell and quadruple sculls. They compete in a variety of competitions each year, typically 3-4 sprints in the summer and 3-4 long distance races in the fall, and although the lineups are usually quite fluid, Ryan has been in almost every seat in every boat. They have a collection of 1st and 2nd place medals, and the fastest boat Ryan has ever rowed was in the Men’s Eight that finished 2nd place at the 2011 Master’s Nationals in Oklahoma City.
Ryan also recently worked with Dennis Oehler and Todd Schaffhauser at both the Amputee Walking School and a special focus group held at the SRT National Prosthetic Center in Indianapolis for training amputees how to run.
“That was the first time I had ever jogged step over step”, said Ryan. “It was a strange feeling to leap onto my artificial foot, but the more I did it, the more I got used to it. It was very interesting to learn something new. The Walking School was a good reminder that you always need to be exercising the right muscles to make walking easier and more efficient. I’ve been paying more attention to how I walk ever since I attended the clinic”.
Ryan currently lives in Brownsburg, Indiana with his wife, Anne, and children JR and Brady, and is the Senior Manager of Global Quality Management Systems at Covance, Inc. in Indianapolis for the past 12 years.
Ryan also stated, as an encouragement to his fellow amputees, “Start small and get involved. Once you become involved in something, whether physical or service-oriented, it’s easy to pick up momentum from the people you interact with and what you can do to help them. That is why I love rowing. It keeps me physically fit but also provides an opportunity to bring rowing to others who would normally not realize that rowing is an option for them”.