“ My motto recently: Sometimes your only available mode of transportation is a leap of faith.
Brad Ludden is the ultimate adventure mAss Kicker. He is Nike’s first sponsored professional kayaker; pilot; Cosmopolitan magazine’s “2008 Bachelor of the Year”; founder of a young adult cancer survivor adventure organization, First Descents; and all around good guy. Brad is a very strong advocate for young adult survivors. We were very lucky to track him down and ask him a few questions.
mK: Why did you start First Descents?
BL: Simply because I could. I knew early on how powerful the sport of kayaking could be and at the same time, I realized I was in a position to provide it to those in need. When I was 18 I scrapped together our first week of programming and saw first hand how impacting it was. From there, I didn’t have a choice, I had to continue growing it.
mK: It is definitely a unique organization that offers survivors something that is hard to regain… courage/confidence. Can you explain why you started kayaking as a kid and why you have made it your profession?
BL: My parents bought my first kayak for me when I was 9. To be honest, I hated it. It scared the hell out of me. I spent more time CRYAKING than KAYAKING! ☺ After a couple of years, I started to embrace that fear and feed off it. I became addicted to the adrenaline, to the feeling of reward after overcoming fear. I also realized that kayaking could become a vehicle to see the world. These two things combined and became a passion that I sought everyday of my life. At some point along the way, that passion turned into a profession.
mK: That is pretty cool. Traveling to exotic places is definitely a nice perk to being a professional kayaker. Where has been your favorite place to travel?
BL: Definitely Africa. We have been to places in Africa that are so far removed from the beaten path that you feel lost in time. It’s like traveling to another world. Everything is so foreign and the people are fascinated by you. Having huge colorful kayaks doesn’t help either.
mK: We have to ask… what is the most bizarre thing you have eaten on your travels?
BL: Most bizarre thing… bugs. In southeast asia, they fed us bugs that had been cooked in soy sauce. not cool…
mK: Hey, we hear bugs have a lot of protein. Must have been “Crunchy”. Anyways… Who is your hero? Who do you look up to?
BL: I have never been more humbled than when I kayak alongside the participants at First Descents. I am constantly amazed by their strength, perspective, determination and lust for life. They are my heroes.
mK: What motivates you?
BL: Every time I hear the story of a participant at FD, I am motivated. I realize that I have it easy and therefore have to do my part to help people who don’t. I will stop at nothing to grow these programs as long as young adults choose to face the challenge we provide.
mK: Very cool. Those challenges bring a lot of emotions to the surface. What makes you laugh, cry, angry?
BL: Laugh- Dirty Jokes. Cry- the end of each first descents camp. Angry- Anyone who complains (myself included).
mK: Hahaha! Random question time… What CD or Album are you most embarrassed of owning?
BL: I don’t even know where to begin. Is ABBA bad enough?
mK: *cough… What is your guilty pleasure?
BL: A cold beer and dessert (not at the same time!)
mK: Hey, some beers make a great dessert! What is the one thing you are most proud of?
BL: Founding First Descents
mK: We are sure First Descents will continue to do amazing things. You have created something very special! Complete this sentence… “If I wasn’t Brad Ludden I would be…”?
BL: Way cooler. ☺
mK: Hahaha! What do you like to do in your spare time?
BL: Spare time? What’s that? ☺ How about- fly, bow hunt, fly fish, ski, mountain bike, drink wine, eat, cook, eat, camp, see friends, read, play the banjo, SLEEP!
mK: You play the banjo too? We though you had to be missing teeth to play the banjo or have “Bob” added on to the end of your first name! j/k… What are you doing now?
BL: Eating an amazing dinner with my sister in Jackson Hole, WY and watching funny movies. I couldn’t be happier.
mK: Any advice for people or loved ones that get daunting diagnoses?
BL: Constantly prove to yourself that you’re still in control of your life by challenging yourself as often as possible and overcoming it.
mK: Tell us something people probably didn’t know… anything.
BL: I quite kayaking when I was 11 because I was so afraid of it. The only reason I tried it again was because my sister was better than me and I couldn’t take that! ☺
mK: Siblings bring out the best and worst in us. Any parting words for all the mAss Kickers?
BL: My motto recently: “Sometimes your only available mode of transportation is a leap of faith.” -unknown
Thanks for putting up with our crazy questions Brad. In summary Brad Ludden: humble guy, professional kayaker, strong young adult survivor advocate, banjo player with all his teeth, and dude with his heart in the right place. Check out First Descents. Keep an eye on this organization. Hopefully we will be able to grab a beer with “Brad-Bob”…