What to expect your first time whitewater kayaking from fellow FD alum, Roux

Brought to you by fellow cancer survivor, FD alumni, and first time whitewater kayaker, Roux.

In the boat:
You’ll be wearing a wetsuit, booties, paddling jacket, PFD (personal floatation device), kayak skirt, helmet –> all provided there. [You might know all this if you’ve ever been kayaking. I had not.]

What I suggest wearing underneath –
Either a one-piece swimsuit OR a sports bra & bathing suit bottom — obviously these need to be synthetic and bathing suit material or some other sporty quick drying material. I wore bathing suit bottoms and a sports bra as my bottom layer. Biking shorts would probably work since they’re already tight as long as they are not heavy or cotton or whatever. Cotton is a huge f*ing no-no. Any clothes that aren’t pretty skin tight already (like running shorts or something like that – this was my initial plan that I abandoned) aren’t going to work super great under the wetsuit, which is SUPER TIGHT, as they will just bunch and be annoying. I wore a tight Under Armor shirt over my sports bra and under the wetsuit, which doesn’t have sleeves – it’s like a tank top wetsuit if that makes sense, at least ours were. I wanted something between the wetsuit and my upper body, and this worked great. On colder days, I wore a fleece over my wetsuit and under the paddling jacket. If you don’t have a fleece, the outfitter — hopefully Wet Planet (Hood River, OR outfitter — hearts and butterflies and love)– should have extras. On warmer days, I tossed the fleece and just wore the rash guard under the paddling jacket.

Coldness in the boats –
I was never cold. I was sometimes warm. You’re working really hard out there. The water was cold, but when you’re in the water, you’re usually too pumped with adrenaline to think about being cold. I wouldn’t worry about this as long as you have the layer sitch (above) in place. You can always take off a layer like a fleece or a rash guard at the lunch break on the banks of the river if you get hot.

Sunglasses –
Important for me because of contact glare issues and water splashing in eyeball issues. Buy something that attaches them around your head securely. I got mine at Wal-mart eyeglass shop the night before camp for like $4.

Body Guard –
Some girls had this anti-chafing stuff which might be helpful if you’re into that sort of thing or worried about chafing. I thought this was smart of them, though I don’t think it’s necessary in all cases.

Water bottle –
Don’t forget this! You will be using it every day.

Sunscreen –
Duh. I thought I would need bug spray as I am a mosquito magnet since birth but there were no mosquitoes to speak of. Not sure how it will be where you are or when you go.

Phones/cameras in boats –
I bought a $9.99 disposable waterproof camera at CVS and used it 1 day but otherwise never brought a phone or camera on the water. It’s obviously discouraged as you know as they don’t want you staring at your phone all day and kayaks turn over a lot, natch. I did bring my phone in my van bag to snap a few pics before & after the river – kayaks are f*ing pretty colors and the scenery was gorgeous – but this isn’t really necessary if you have a photog there like we had Scooter. I think that bringing anything of value in your boat is real dumb.

Helpful stuff to have in the van every day
A lightweight backpack or other tote-type bag to stash the clothes you change out of and back into. The more quick-dry-type stuff you can bring for this the better. Usually I wore like camping pants and a t-shirt and fleece or windbreaker in the van in the morning when it was a bit chilly, with Tevas + smartwool socks. After, since every day was sunny and awesome, I would change into running shorts and a t-shirt for the ride home and Tevas without socks. For post-river, bring something that can be gross and dry fast as you will be gross from the river. I always stashed wet wipes in my bag because I liked to wipe my feet off from the booties before putting my shoes on but this was deemed a bit overboard by many of my fellow campers. There’s lots of getting naked in and around the vans so just be prepped for that. I stopped caring after day one.

Do you need a cute swimsuit as you are under the impression as I was {HA HA} that sometimes you’ll just be sunning and kicking it riverside in your cute swimsuit?
Negative, ghostrider.

Lodge clothes
Whatever you’re comfy in. People wore everything you can imagine. I mostly wore yoga pants. If you are worried about being cold, bringing something cozy to wear around campfire is key as that will be the coldest part of your day, most likely. I brought fingerless gloves, a cozy winter pom pom hat, etc. Some people dragged blankets out with them. I was perfectly cozy as long as my head, feet, and hands were warm. Then again, some people stayed in shorts and bare feet for campfire. I guess it just depends on how you are most comfy.

Helpful to have
Woolite — I packed little travel packets of this to rinse out my bathing suit bottoms and sports bra from the river each afternoon in the sink and then just hung them dry. I’m sure there will be a washing machine but this was easiest for me. Some people might not have bothered with this, but since I got body organs pulled out not that long ago, I was trying to avoid that “not so fresh feeling.” Love you, Woolite.

Travel clothesline –
I hung this up in our room and liked having it close-by to hang things over. Wash it in hot water before you go or it might stain your clothes yellow.

You’re going to have a GREAT time!

**For any further questions about what you should/should not be bringing on your adventure with First Descents, our amazing programs team is here to help! Email [email protected] They have the answers.

Programs 2013- It’s a WRAP!

Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 11.40.41 AM

We are officially wrapping up our 2013 programs season! Although it is sad to see such an amazing year come to a close, this also means we get to look back on all of the amazing times we had here at First Descents in 2013. Whether we were kayaking the magnificent rivers in Oregon, Montana, Wyoming, Massachusetts or Patagonia; Surfing the smooth swells of California, North Carolina or Bali; Climbing massive rock walls in Utah or New York, all of our programs provided a special healing only gained by “Out Living It” First Descents style.

It isn’t healing of the body. There are no needles, hospitals, chemicals or radiation; only nature, challenges, and Family. It is healing of the soul. And while every one of our participants gains something a little different from their experience, they all come away with a new lease on who they are and what they can accomplish!

 We are proud to say, this year 423 young adult survivors and fighters attended a First Descents program at over 36 week-long and weekend programs. Here are a few testimonials from this year’s programs season.

“While this sounds completely insane, knowing what I now know about FD, if three years ago someone had given me the choice between 1) cancer AND First Descents OR 2) no cancer, no FD, I would have chosen #1, hands down.” -FD2 Participant

“FD has made such a difference in my daily life. I feel like I am not alone in the world and that I have something to work towards, aspire to and look forward to. I even feel like I have something to give to other young adults with cancer whereas before I just avoided them. I don’t know of any other group of people who get to have such an awesome experience available to them and I feel so blessed to be a part of FD.” FD2 Participant

Thank You to everyone who has supported First Descents this year and all years. More importantly, THANK YOU to our amazing Young Adult survivors and fighters for accepting the challenge to kayak, climb and surf beyond your diagnoses.  We stand with you in giving cancer the Big Middle Finger!

We will be using this section of the newsletter during programs season to give you a better glimpse into FD in action- monthly updates on program highlights and photos. We hope this lets you stay connected and experience FD just a little bit over the web.

With Love and High Fives,

2013 First Descents Programs Team

Uncle Pete, Crash, Wildflower and Fruit Boots


Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 10.47.04 AM


New Participant Highlight!

Holy cow, are we really just a couple of weeks away from our White Salmon, WA camps?  Wahoo!  See you there, Ligaya!
Name:  Ligaya King
Age: 24
Hometown:  San Diego, Ca
Dx:  Primary Mediastinal B Cell Lymphona (Non Hodgkins)
Hobbies:  Arts, Crafts, Design, Hiking, Road Trips –  Generally making stuff and doing things.

FD: How did you find out about First Descents?
LK: I believe it was through the I’m Too Young for This Cancer Foundation website (i2y.com)  or the American Cancer Society’s survivor network and resources.

FD: Which program will you be attending?
LK: I will be Kayaking in White Salmon, Washington.

FD:  What attracted you to that specific program?
LK:  Kayaking is one of those things I’ve always wanted to do but never have.  When I was young I didn’t formally learn how to swim so I developed a small fear of water.  I was looking for an opportunity to challenge myself while connecting with other cancer survivors.  Plus I absolutely LOVE the Portland/Washington area.

FD:  How are you feeling about your decision to attend?
LK:  I’m really excited and proud of myself for pursuing something I’ve always wanted to do.

FD:  What are you hoping to get out of your week at FD?
LK:  I really hope to make some new friends and connect with other cancer survivors.  I never really sought out to connect with others while I was in treatment because I was constantly surrounded by people.  But now that I am in remission and my world regains some semblance of normalcy, the doctors appointments become less frequent and I have less and less information to relay to all those friends and family, I feel the need to reach out and be connected to people who have been there, done that and get “it.”

FD:  What are three things about you that people might not know but should?
LK:  hmmm.

I find everything interesting.  I love to learn things.  I can sit and read, write, research, google and/or wikipedia about a bevy of topics.   My memory for those things post treatment is a little shaky.  Darn chemo brain, it’ll never be the same.

In Filipino my first name mean “Joy” which funnily enough is also my middle name.  Joy Joy.  I think it describes me nicely.

I’m trying to get involved in more philanthropic activities.  I recently joined Team in Training benefiting the Leukemia Lymphoma Society.  I have aspirations to start my own organization.

New Participant Highlight!

Check out our new participant highlight: fun-lovin, outdoor-playin, drum-rockin, poetry-writin, comedy-watchin, bada**  mama!

Thanks for sharing, Jessica – start packing your bags for Washington!

Name: Jessica Lindley

Age: 39

Hometown: Tempe AZ; Live in Austin, TX

Dx: recurrent papillary Thyroid cancer

Hobbies: anything outside (kayaking, swimming, climbing, hiking, surfing, etc.); playing drums; writing poetry and all the other fun stuff in life like porch-sittin’ & hanging out with friends

FD: How did you find out about First Descents?

JL: Planet Cancer & i2y

FD: Which program will you be attending?

JL: White Salmon Kayaking

FD:  What attracted you to that specific program?

JL:  Activity & location

FD:  How are you feeling about your decision to attend?

JL: Excited & nervous

FD:  What are you hoping to get out of your week at FD?

JL:  Time to connect with others in a beautiful environment, who understand cancer survivorship in a way my friends and family do not.

FD:  What are three things about you that people might not know but should?

JL: I’m a single parent (7yr old boy);  I’m an only child; i have a wicked sense of humor — love comedies like Python, Buffy, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Borat, and Community

Thanks, Jessica!  See you on the river!

Missing Moab Already…

We’re all still reeling from an amazing week in Moab, where FD kicked off the 2010 program season.  As always, Cheesesteak (aka Emily Beck) found a way to capture it beautifully.  Check out her blog and prepare to be inspired!  To see some incredible photos from the week, click here , where FD participant and talented photographer Fridge (aka Caroline Bridges) posted some amazing pics.  Thanks, gals!

New Participant Highlight

With our White Salmon, WA kayaking programs only a few weeks away, I though it would be fitting to spotlight a new FD’er headed to the Pacific NW in June.  Thanks, Aly!

Name:  Alyson Rachel Pospisil
Age:  25
Hometown:  Nutley, NJ
Dx:  Stage 3 Melanoma
Hobbies:  Sharing a good meal and a glass of wine with great friends

FD: How did you find out about First Descents?
AP: I received an email through an organization I am a part of in hopes I could spread the word to other cancer survivors I know. I decided in addition to sending it out, I would apply for it myself.
FD: Which program will you be attending?
AP: The kayaking program in WA
FD:  What attracted you to that specific program?
AP: Nothing seemed more wonderful to me that being surrounded by the gorgeous Washington scenery while paddling down the river!
FD:  How are you feeling about your decision to attend?
AP: I’m excited! This experience is pushing me to do a lot of firsts… I’ve never flown by myself, I’ve never been to the state of Washington, I’ve never spent a week with a group of individuals I’ve never met before.
FD: What are you hoping to get out of your week at FD?
AP: I’m hoping to push myself and experience things I would otherwise never get to do in my life.
FD:  What are three things about you that people might not know but should?
1) I’m getting married in September to the most amazing man I’ve ever met!
2) I could eat mangoes all day long, for every meal.
3) My favorite color is orange.

Thanks for sharing, Aly – see you in Washington!
– FD


It’s with a bitter sweet taste in my mouth that I write this entry.  We recently wrapped up our 1st camp of the season in Moab, Utah.  The bitter part is that it’s over.  The sweet part is that it was AMAZING!  There really aren’t words to describe the magic of that place, the power of the rock, the energy of the participants and the support and knowledge of the guides.

Moab marked many more “firsts” for First Descents.  It was the first time we tried that location and focused on technical vertical wall climbing.  Both left us breathless for two very different reasons.  The routes up the rock walls were as challenging as we wanted them to be and the sunsets were unlike any I have ever seen.  Speaking of “firsts”, on the last day, we did some HUGE rappels, the second of which was off a natural rock arch.  I’m still shaking.

One of the other firsts was working with CMS guides.  They proved to not only be incredible on the rock but embodied and carried the FD spirit off the rock.  It was a seamless partnership and one that we’re excited to build on this year in Estes.

Thank you to all who have made this dream a reality.  We owe you a huge debt of gratitude!

Finally, if you haven’t already signed up for a camp, I strongly suggest you do.  Estes is filling up quickly and if our Moab program was anything of a sneak preview, you WONT want to miss it!

New Participant Highlight

Thanks to Erich for being my victim this week! LADIES – watch out…I’ve done two guys in a row…coming after you next!!

Name : Erich Herbst

Age: 32

Dx: Hodgkins Lymphoma

Hometown: Blackfoot, Idaho

Hobbies: painting, airbrushing, photography, hiking, and mountain biking.

FD: How did you find out about First Descents?

EH: I came across the First Descents website while I was looking for other cancer information on the internet.

FD: Which program will you be attending?

EH: I will be attending the climbing camp in Moab.

FD: What attracted you to that specific program?

EH: While I would love to attend any of the camps First Descents offers I was real excited to get the opportunity to climb. On a clear day I can watch the sun rise from behind the Grand Tetons during my morning drive to work and I have always planned on someday climbing them. Hopefully this camp will get me closer to realizing that goal.

FD: What are you hoping to get out of your week at FD?

EH: Besides just getting to climb I am really looking forward to meeting some other young adults that have had similar experiences that I have had with cancer. Maybe I will be able to learn how others have been able to overcome some of the obstacle that occur in life because of having cancer.

Thanks, Erich!  See you in Moab!

New Participant Highlight

With our first program only a month away, we’re all running around like crazy and getting EXCITED to kick off the 2010 program season!  Hopefully all you FD’ers have marked your calendars and RSVP’d “no” to that highschool reunion inconveniently scheduled for the same week as your FD adventure.  I’m sure there are a million questions swirling in your mind…”What should I expect?”  “What should I pack?”  “What the heck was I thinking?”  and of course, “Who will I meet?”  If you haven’t already heard from us about what to expect and what to pack, then sit tight!  We’ll be in touch soon with more info than you know what to do with!  What were you thinking?  You were thinking that you’re ready for the experience of a lifetime!  Lastly, and most importantly, I’m here to tell you who you’ll meet.  Starting today, we’ll spotlight a new First Descents participant every few weeks.  Someone who, just like you, has no idea what to expect.  It’s a huge leap, and you’re all in it together.  A big shout out to Grady for being our first victim!

Name: Grady Renfrow
Washington, D.C.
Thyroid Cancer / Leukemia  
Playing Soccer / Cycling

FD: How did you find out about First Descents?

GR: At a regular check-up.  A lady that works at the clinic as an adviser asked me if I like kayaking.   I told her I have never been but have a feeling that I would like it.  She returned with the brochure and told me that I should seriously consider participating in First Descents.

FD: Which program will you be attending and what attracted you to that specific program?

GR: I think climbing is more my style.  All though during the First Descents video presentation when they showed Brad kayaking his way through the muddy water I thought, “man, I want to paddle through the chocolate milk too”  

FD:  How are you feeling about your decision to attend?
GR: Excited

FD:  What are you hoping to get out of your week at FD?
GR: I want to really challenge myself and get out of my comfort zone to accomplish something that I otherwise would never think to do.

FD:  What are three things about you that people might not know but should?
1.) I was born and raised in Washington, D.C. as a true Washingtonian and proud of it.  I know there are not many of us but just to clarify that I am not from the surrounding Maryland or Virginia.

2.) Most people, when they first talk to me, think I’m from a foreign country.  One of the first questions is sometimes “What country are you from?” which is usually followed by, “Wait, so you actually grew up in D.C.?”
3.) I had a crush on my third-grade teacher in elementary school

Thanks, Grady!

FD and Kokatat

A huge thanks to our friends at Kokatat for the shout-out!  FD is honored to be featured as the Kokatat “Partner of the Month” on the Kokatat blog: http://blog.kokatat.com/

Kokatat has been supporting First Descents for years, and continues to help us keep our mission afloat!  (I just couldn’t resist).  Check out these amazing pfd’s that our young adult survivors will be wearing this summer.  For all the latest in paddlesport gear, visit http://www.kokatat.com/

To the entire team at Kokatat, a heartfelt thanks!