SSK-sponsored athlete Ryan Patrick Bolohan is one of our sport’s nicest dudes, and one who’s highly respected. With more than 3,500 jumps, two world and multiple state skydiving records, and 2,500 tunnel hours, Ryan is a Coach and AFF-I Instructor.
In addition to proudly representing SSK, Ryan is sponsored by several other elite skydiving brands including Performance Designs, Sun Path Products, GoPro, Vertical Suits and Cookie Composites. “I wouldn’t jump anything but a CYPRES, even if I wasn’t sponsored by SSK” says Ryan. (Word. We wouldn’t either, even if we weren’t the CYPRES sales and service center for the Western Hemisphere.)
Ryan has a cool story, and we were thrilled to catch him to snag the cliffnotes. Here’s the skinny –
The Early Years
Ryan hails from a tight-knit crew of lovely people. Ryan’s mom stayed at home with him and his brother and his Dad was president of a company with operations across the country. Together, they wintered in Florida and summered in Michigan, which meant Ryan spent every out-of-school moment on the water.
As a teen, he was always “behind a boat” and by age 16 he was almost a pro-level wakeboarder. His thrill-seeking interests didn’t stop there, though. Motorcycles and SCUBA caught his fancy too. He was fueled by the rush of adrenaline in the moment, and the big-impact memories that followed.
Ryan was a confident and curious kid, a combination found in extreme sports athletes the world over.
Ryan’s love and respect for the water carried him into adulthood. He served six years in the US Coast Guard and, later, landed a position with FEMA as a flood insurance adjuster (a somewhat ironic job that he still holds). It’s an all-encompassing gig for three or so months, but it turns him loose to pursue his passions for the rest of the year. Genius.
In 2012, just before his 30th birthday, Ryan did his first tandem over Lake Michigan in Charlevoix. The whole experience blew his mind, and it awakened a seed he’d stored away at age 12. His family had seen a Golden Knights Airshow at MacDill Airforce Base in Tampa and he knew then that, one day, he’d try his hand at skydiving.
That was it. One tandem and he was hooked. Three days later he started AFF at Skydive Tecumseh.
As has always been Ryan’s way, he was fully committed. Between Tecumseh and Z-Hills, that first year Ryan completed 983 (mostly zoo) jumps. He tried amazing things in flight, met incredible people, and found the thing that fed his soul.
In retrospect, Ryan realized that his logbook was significant in quantity and scant in quality. He actively sought guidance from those he most admired. Rook Nelson, DZO at Skydive Chicago, became a great friend and an invaluable mentor, as did Aaron Stocum, a Flight-1 Canopy Coach and fellow Z-Hills local. Aaron was instrumental in helping Ryan establish a foundation grounded in safe canopy flight and demonstrated the importance of being a responsible skydiver.
Z-Hill swoopers Curt Bartholomew and Nick Batsch were also an inspiration. Ryan couldn’t imagine being skilled enough to pull off what they were doing. Their willingness to not only guide Ryan, but to also let him document their swoops via drone, were a gift.
The minute Ryan was licensed to jump with a GoPro he put one on his head … and never took it off. Back in his wakeboarding days, he and his pals were always filming from the boat and Ryan loved making rough-cut compilations of their progression. So, too, became the tradition with his new love: skydiving.
At first, Ryan and his friends casually encouraged each other to “stay awesome” on camera, and then it became a kind of tagline. The better his footage got, the more time he dedicated to teaching himself to edit. He studied the work of greats like Norman Kent and Keith Creedy, and was awestruck by then up-and-comer Alex Cashman.
Just over a year after his first jump, he established Stay Awesome Productions and started making a name for himself as a sick camera flyer.
Not “Just a Camera Flyer”
Ryan loves skydiving. Like, really loves it. When asked about how he deals with burnout he says, “I’m not burnt out. I have too much passion for the sport to be burnt out.”
These days he prefers to do four or five well-planned jumps in a weekend, instead of crushing as many jumps as humanly possible like he did back in the day. And it’s not just about articulating a dope jump, it’s about doing it with like-minded, positive people. “If it weren’t for the skydiving community, I wouldn’t jump as much. We’re a small group and we build bonds fast.”
Freeflying is Ryan’s discipline of choice right now, specifically 3D skydives. He loves mixing everything together – angle flying, straight aheads, flipping on his belly, and building up to something rad. His second favorite is canopy flight. “It’s amazing. Every canopy flies differently. I love jumping fast, more aggressive canopies.”
And, of course, his camera is always on – even if he’s not intentionally documenting a jump. It’s there to capture everything awesome.
Advice for the Next Gen
Ryan has the chops to jump with anyone in the world now, but he knows that starting out that feels impossible. He shared some dos and don’ts that have supported his progression, and it serves as great advice for newcomers to sport:
It’s not a race.
Have fun learning. Gain mastery over a little bit at a time by finding a person or a group that challenges you.
Form your own opinion.
Everyone has well-intentioned words of wisdom to share. Listen to it all with an open mind, and then forge your own path ahead.
Choose kindness and courtesy. Don’t hold up a load by being late, or show up during a dirt dive and ask to participate.
Check your gear … and then check it again.
Be gear conscious. Make sure your pins are good and your flaps are closed. Go through emergency procedures over and over.
As soon as it’s not fun, don’t do it.
Ryan’s Dad instilled in him the notion of doing what you love and never working a day in your life. “Skydiving at this level is amazing. It’s the best of both worlds.” Nuff said.
How to Get Sponsored
Ryan’s a decorated dude. He’s got sick gear, and he’s honored to rock it.
Not surprisingly, each of his sponsorships have been secured as a result of his not-so-secret weapon: his authenticity. His advice to those seeking sponsorship is to simply, “Be yourself. Carry yourself in a positive manner. Be passionate about the equipment you’re using. Proudly represent the brand.”
About his experience as an SSK-sponsored athlete so far he said, “The level of support SSK offers is above and beyond. They take care of their athletes, and Adam is super available to us.” Boom.
Ryan believes that every day offers an opportunity for self improvement. He aims to wake up each day and do better than he did the day before, and to lead a big, healthy, happy life.
When he looks to the future, Ryan sees huge things. His immediate goal is to again serve as the camera flyer for next year’s attempt at the 200-way in Chicago. Longer term, he has his eye on the big screen. Aerial cinematographer and occasional stunt man Craig O’Brien is a mega inspiration.
Eight years into his career, Ryan has followed in the super-sized footsteps of his heroes … and he’s not stopping anytime soon.
Blue skies, Ryan. We’re grateful to have you on Team #SSKInc!