The kayaker’s wish list this holiday season (suggestions for beginners!)

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Dear Boof Santa,
I’ve been really good on the river this year (ok I slipped up a few times in this spring during high water). Here is my wishlist:
1. A good helmet- Sweet, WRSI, Shred Ready- you only get one brain, if you are going to spend money on one thing, make it this.
2. A new skirt- I like Bomber Gear. fashionable and functional – on the river and on the town
3. A pony – not kayaking related but I want one.
4. Paddle- you don’t need the best paddle right off the bat, just one that fits you. Buy something you can afford and upgrade as you progress. Each paddle company should have a size guide on their website, be sure it is whitewater specific. (I’m biased towards werner)
5. A boat (new or used)- All of the companies in business today make fine boats. a creekboat and/or riverrunner will be the most stable for beginners. Here is a great write up on how to choose a boat. It’s geared towards women but I think it’s a good lesson for beginners in general. http://www.watergirlsatplay.com/blog/how-to-choose-your-whitewater-kayak/
6. Dry gear- Especially for those in the west where the water is colder, staying dry= staying warm. It’s expensive but if you can afford Kokatat it’s totally worth it. Any drytop and or drysuit (for you guys in the Pacific Northwest) with a tunnel for a skirt will be great.
7. PFD (personal flotation device)- Pronounced püfdah in German – okay not really. Type III is good for beginners. These have been tested by the coast gaurd and they all float. Find a comfy one and rock it.
8. A Beginner Boating Buddy- Elf or human, it’s always better to get out with friends.
 
Thanks Santa.
Love, Crash

THE STORY OF ALEX NILES, FOUNDER OF CUREWEAR

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Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew…when I bit off more than I could chew.

But through it all, when there was doubt…I ate it up and spit it out.

I faced it all and I stood tall and did it my way.

The day I found out what fear feels like came on September 11th, 2013, at age 30. It didn’t come in the form of a movie, or a job, or a girl. It came in the form of being diagnosed with stage IV cancer. It rushed into my life like a tsunami, reaping havoc and filling my mind and body with doubt and anxiety, my intellect with worry and unknown.

My first reaction was utter shock. I didn’t know what was to come, but hearing words like cancer took the air out of me, as if I were punched in the gut by a stud who reads The Sweat Life. All the negative connotations with such an illness, and such a severe stage as well. I was scared, and it felt natural. It felt real. Ironically, it made me feel alive.

Clearly fear has a place in our lives, but I wasn’t about to let it control me. No way would I allow it to dictate how I chose to live. Not a chance. It’s easy to ignore our fears, but courage won’t make it to the playing field unless you have a fear to face down. By owning my feelings I took the first step toward gaining control over the situation as best as I could.

Instead of ignoring the situation I found myself in, or denying its seriousness, I decided to address it head on. As the days and weeks passed after hearing that dreadful diagnosis, I let that fear keep simmering. I acknowledged it, and began to keep a journal. At first my diary served as a concession to panic, and slowly evolved into a way I would conquer it. I often look back on my journal during those early days, and it now serves me to give me strength and encouragement, and also to see the big picture. It enabled me to track my progress as I worked towards conquering my fear.

After accepting and admitting my fear, I tried to chase negative thoughts from my mind to picture what it would be like to win this battle, with a big wide smile on my face. I set that as my big goal, but also focused on smaller concrete goals to help me get there. I made it a point to meditate every day when I woke up, thinking about peaceful settings such as the wind blowing through a forest, of healthy, green leaves on sturdy, deep rooted trees. I imagined that I was laying on the forest floor, watching the limbs sway back and forth as I breathed in healing air, and breathed out unneeded thoughts or feelings.

I have made exercise a part of my daily routine. At times, combating the side effects of treatment made this chore extremely difficult, but I have always believed that a body in motion tends to stay in motion — apparently I paid attention in physics class. It would be too easy to just take a seat, to lay down in bed all day. ‘No!’ I told myself. I willed myself to keep moving every day, no matter the challenge. Whether it was a quick walk outside with some fresh air, or an intense full-body workout, I was determined to squeeze that sweat out.

Exercising also helped me feel normal again. I had exercised my whole life, I was a Division 1 scholarship athlete, and I was resolved to feel as much as the old me as I could, even through this testing time. Regular exercise also made me feel like I was taking control of the situation, as I watched my frail body fill out again. I noticed myself feeling satisfied, even proud, of what I achieved every day, and even feeling as if I weren’t being pumped with poison every few weeks. I felt confidence cascaded through my veins, not the voracious venom that was eating away at healthy cells. As the sweat poured out of me, my mood improved. The roller coaster of emotions I had found myself living through became a little more balanced too as I watched my appetite and energy increase. I had repossessed many important things I had been stripped of — all due to exercise.

I’ve been blogging and telling my story, but more important, I’ve designed a clothing company, CureWear, that allows chronic illness patients to receive treatment without having to take off their shirts. Designed to bring comfort to patients living with medical ports and PICC lines while inspiring public support, CureWear provides you with an opportunity to wear clothing that stands for a cause. There is a patient line, but also a line of top notch athletic apparel that stands for something. Not only is there a functional aspect, but there is something much bigger. My best friend recently ran in the NYC marathon, and it filled me with extra strength to fight on. Partial proceeds for every purchase go to the funding of clothes for patients, much in the way Tom’s has built their business model by delivering a pair of free, new shoes to a child in need for every sale it makes.

Sometimes through the darkest skies the brightest stars reveal themselves and shine. Although I never asked to be in this situation, being confronted by the darkest of fears, and accepting, confronting, and overcoming that fear enabled me to learn, grow, and be even more mortal. Feeling fear is human, but I assure you conquering it will make you feel empowered, courageous, and proud.

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Alex Niles, Founder of CureWear

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2014 NYC Marathon with Team FD

CONGRATULATIONS and THANK YOU to the 2014 NYC Marathon Team!
THE TEAM
Eileen Aptman
Mike & Stacey Buckley (aka Clicks and Nickels)
Carson Christman
Liz DeVito
Jay Eichberg
Karen Green (aka Kare Bear)
Josh Gurland
Kim Imel (aka Kool Aid)
Nick Isbrandtsen
Peter Kneute
Clifford Mendelson
Jeff Mihm
Deb Newman
Mark Schwaiger (aka Ultra Chili)
GREAT JOB!
This year’s team brought so much passion to the event, and truly embodied the Out Living It mantra we hold so dear. There were bedazzled TeamFD NYC Marathon hoodies, hand-made signs, new nicknames were donned, and a crew of FD family cheered everyone on at Mile 22! The team has raised almost $50,000 for First Descents and they are still going! [Click here to see their progress and make a donation to their team goal]. Our ever-bright alumn, Sunshine, graciously hosted a cheering squad at her apartment and gave us the following report:
FROM SUNSHINE
“Sunday was the BIG gift of the weekend.  The 22nd Mile cheer stop was very well-attended and seemed to come in great help for friends and family of runners to relieve themselves from the cold.  It was so great to meet all the loving, supportive people who make up the extended FD / Movember families.  Guests were overwhelmed by the strength and courage it took our runners to make it to mile 22 with heads held high and feet still moving.  We made it our JOB to send a message of YOU GOT THIS love, to every runner we could!!  A couple folks were moved to tears watching the brave faces of both the strong and the weary as they motored down 120th  street. I will never forget running a half mile with Kool-Aid (Congrats Woman!!)  My heart is full knowing the Snap Jacks and Rabbit Girl made the THIRD time the REAL CHARM!!  Nickels and Clicks Killed it.  Ultra Chili- hands down some serious power there, man…he bowled us over with his energy at mile 22. Peter rocked it and took in the love at our cheer stop.  Hooker went by like the FLASH!  Laura was all smiles after so many miles. Really a magical day.  THANK YOU!!!!  We couldn’t have done it without Broccoli’s giant stache on a stick and all the horns and pom poms and spirit!!
I am so proud to be a part of this community. It was an INCREDIBLE adventure.
Congrats to all of our runners, and many thanks to those who stood in the cold wind, screaming their heads off!  Love you all so much!!!”
– Sunshine
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The First Descents experience by Crush

The following is my reflection on the week I spent rock climbing with First Descents in Moab, Utah. First Descents is a non-profit that offers young adult cancer fighters and survivors a free outdoor adventure experience designed to empower them to climb, paddle and surf beyond their diagnosis, defy their cancer, reclaim their lives and connect with others doing the same.

I left on my First Descents trip just two and a half weeks after I finished a year’s worth of treatment for breast cancer. I found a lump just a few months after my 30th birthday and spent the following year getting 20 rounds of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy and 33 rounds of radiation. Over the course of that year my life and identity became completely overrun by cancer. My schedule succumbed to constant swings between illness and recovery. My body was measured, poked, treated and scanned like the subject of a science experiment. I wore cancer all over my tired face which went without eyebrows, eyelashes or hair for much of the year. I was weak. I was sick. I was sad. I was scared. As hard as I’d fought and as positive as I had tried to remain I still felt like cancer’s victim.

When treatment ended I felt abruptly thrust back into the “real world” unsure of who I was or what I was doing there. I couldn’t picture any life beyond cancer, couldn’t see myself as anything but a cancer patient. I couldn’t imagine living. I could only imagine more cancer. I could only imagine that it would eventually kill me. When I first arrived at the airport I was filled with fear. I was afraid of dying, afraid I didn’t know who I was anymore, afraid others wouldn’t understand me. But most of all I was afraid I wasn’t going to be able to make it up that rock.

Our first night in Moab together I half expected we’d spend our time doing cheesy ice breakers. Turns out when you fill a room with cancer fighters and survivors the ice doesn’t require much to melt away almost immediately. We turned to stories of poop, surgeries and chemo brain for small talk the way most people turn to the weather. Our cancer stories, jokes and heartaches spilled out in drips, and sometimes in droves, during meals, car rides, in the bathroom, and from our bunk beds with the lights turned off until we couldn’t keep our eyes open anymore. I had finally found myself in a place where I was understood and could understand; where my stories were not the exception but the norm.

2014-moab-fd-1643While sitting around talking about cancer all day might have been helpful all on its own the real beauty of the First Descents experience became apparent when we were all out on the rock. The first day I was terrified about whether I would even be able to get off the ground. I had been the weakest person in the room for a whole year. When I made it to the top of my first climb with relative ease I hesitantly started to get excited about what might be possible. The second day as we approached the rock Jupiter and I decided we’d try and tackle what looked like one of the tougher climbs right off the bat. As we looked up in anticipation we consoled each other with the idea that we could totally live with ourselves if we just got to the little ledge about halfway up.

Fortunately, for us, however, Peanut, the intrepid climbing magazine journalist who was tagging along for the week, went up the rope first and found a good vantage point from the top where she could take photos. It also turned out to be the perfect spot to give motivational speeches. After I got to the ledge Peanut suggested I try and go a little further, and so I went up until I thought my arms were going to give out and told her that was about as far as I could go. Peanut still wouldn’t let me off the hook so I tried to go a little farther. After feeling like I was at my wits end, yet again, Peanut still wouldn’t take no for an answer despite my shaking arms. It was at this point that I decided I would do anything I could to get myself up that rock. I scooted myself up on my back, splayed my legs out in crazy directions, dragged my body up by my fingertips, crept my toes up inch by inch. It was exhausting and excruciating but I wasn’t backing down. Below I could hear a steady stream of cheers for the nickname I had given myself, “Go Crush!” “You’re crushing it!”

I was just a painful few inches away from the top and felt completely spent when I reminded myself about all the physically miserable moments I had persevered through in the last year. I knew that if I could make it through all that misery that I could make it up this rock. Finally my fingertips reached the last hold and I hoisted myself up. I had done it. When I got back down I nearly cried. I had physically fought for every inch of the end of that climb and I had made it. But I had not done it alone. I not only had Jupiter physically holding me on the other end of the rope but I had Peanut demanding more from me than I thought possible and a whole crew of guides, First Descent staff and fellow campers at the bottom cheering me on.

2014-moab-fd-1724This was a turning point in my climbing experience. I no longer looked up and wondered if I could do it. I looked up and wondered how I would do it. I now knew that my body would find a way and that my First Descents family wouldn’t let me give up. And whenever I did find myself plagued with doubt I didn’t need to look any further than the next rope over. There, fighting up the red rock walls of Utah, were some of the bravest souls I have ever encountered. They fought through tears, blisters, bruises, a healthy fear of heights, aches, pains and self-doubt to push themselves as far as they could on every single climb. We cheered each other on yelling up as we watched Jupiter, Tweeder, Kiss, Coconuts, Boots, Big A, The Enforcer, and Madrona crush climb after climb. We pushed each other secure in the knowledge that the fears we faced down together out on those rocks were not even close to the scariest things we had encountered.

Somewhere between the delicious meals, the difficult stories, the cancer jokes and the climbs we built a space where we could all open our hearts wider than we could have imagined. As one of the guides said, “In life we can either choose fear or choose love and this is a place where everyone always chooses love.” Even though we might not all have been best friends had we met in the “real world” we found an unconditional acceptance of one another, a deep respect for each other’s perseverance and an enduring empathy for our shared struggles.

The week I spent with First Descents was quite possibly the best week of my life and I left those rocks a completely different person. Before I had seen myself as a victim of cancer and now I have a whole community of tough-as-nails fighters and survivors all around me redefining cancer as an opportunity to show unbelievable strength, unending fearlessness and unconditional love. Before I could only imagine dying. Now I can only imagine living. Even if cancer eventually takes me, whether it’s tomorrow or in 60 years, I know that cancer cannot take my spirit down with it. It could stop my life but it cannot stop me from living. I came to First Descents a cancer patient and I left a rock climber and a proud member of the toughest tribe on earth.

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Thank You First Descents

I’ve worked for First Descents for almost 3 years now and there are a lot of things about my job that I love. I get to be creative, I get to travel, and I work with amazing people. I must say, though, that the best part about my job is having the opportunity to attend our programs. I’ve been to two whitewater kayaking programs, during my first two years at FD. Kayaking is the heart of First Descents and the challenges associated with this sport are undeniable. It’s really breathtaking to see the confidence built within these fighters and survivors during a week on the river. This year, however, I was able to attend a surfing program in Santa Barbara, CA. For me personally, the ocean has a healing power unlike anything else. Any anxieties, stresses, sadness or pain I’m feeling really just dissipate when I can spend any amount of time by the sea. It’s kind of unexplainable, but I know many others have felt the same sense of healing from the ocean. Our week started off quiet and relaxed as 12  survivors arrived at our ranch. As I’ve always experienced, everyone who came to our program was very open, happy and excited to meet one another. I think this sort of adventure really brings like-minded folks together, and of course there’s an immediate unspoken bond over the experiences they’ve shared during their cancer journeys.

Our days were spent on the beach and in the water and I was able to connect on an even deeper level with our participants because I was the program photographer. I absolutely loved being behind the lens capturing true and pure joy as each of them caught their first wave. I was blown away by the level of tenacity and drive in each of these survivors, which has never failed to teach me the importance of humility, courage, and determination in my own life. I can’t even begin to explain the transformations I saw in each and every one of these folks. The timid were charging waves by day 3, and the outspoken were opening up in very emotional and vulnerable ways. This group connected on a very deep level, and I’ll always be humbled by their strength and openness with us.

I feel so special to play even a small part in the healing process for these young adults. First Descents has given me a lot professionally over the past 3 years. But the best gift of all, is the hundreds of new friends I have because of this amazing organization. They are my peers, they are my friends, and they are now my family.

With so much gratitude and love,
-Lucy

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Team FD – Ironman Maryland

Many of you probably know about triathlons and specifically the Ironman distance triathlon. For those that don’t, it is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and a 26.2 mile run raced back to back within a 17 hour deadline. The most famous of the Ironman events is the Hawaiian Ironman, which is the World Championship and televised every year. To get to Hawaii, there are Ironman qualifying races around the world.

This past weekend, I participated in one located in Cambridge, Maryland. I’ve spent my life being very active, always outside and enjoy anything competitive. Somehow, I found my way to triathlon. Sport in general has given me so much through the years. It’s helped me realize not only what I’m capable of but also who I am. When you’re training for an Ironman race, there’s a lot of time spent in your own head! Triathlon has give so much to me and I realized it was time to utilize the very sport that has kept me challenged, empowered and focused through the hard times into something that can potentially help others. Last year I started racing Ironman and using it as a platform to help raise money for First Descents – a program that helps keep young adults with cancer challenged, empowered and focused! What a great fit. In light of this partnership, I was asked to provide a race recap – something I’ve never done before so here goes…..

The day started out cool and crisp with no winds. This is something every triathlete hopes for as it provides for a smooth swim and calm bike. At 7am, 2000 athletes started their day swimming in the bay. Unfortunately, whether it was a long course or stronger than anticipated currents, our times were off by an average of 5 minutes. Not what anyone doing a triathlon wants but at least we were all in it together. From there it was onto the bike. For those that haven’t traveled to Cambridge, the landscape is pancake flat with lots of agriculture – specifically corn and chickens. Flat may sound good when racing 112 but it puts the added stress on your back from not changing positions due to lack of hills to climb. The bike started out nice and calm but by mile 30 the winds picked up. For those that can train outside, learning to power through the wind is a huge advantage. For me, due to working a full time job and have full time kids , all of my biking was done in the wee hours of the morning in my basement on my trainer. Not what I recommend for the race but is recommended if you want to see your family! Sadly, my training left me short of power and my bike time was off. I had many bad thoughts going through my head and was thinking this might be the last Ironman because I felt I didn’t have “it” anymore. Then came the run. This was my 7th never run well. Truth be told, half the time in the run….I’m not running, I’m walking.

On a lighter note, instead of a top 10 Ironman memories list, I have a top 5 list to share with you:

5. Do not blow your nose into the wind

4. Do not bike near anyone blowing their nose in the wind (or doing anything else for that matter.

3. Chicken production farms smell horrible

2. Do not give up – good things may be around the corner

1. First Descents is an amazing organization, it’s campers a true inspiration and it was an honor to race on your behalf.

 

-Britt Mccormick

 

You can read more about Britt’s challenge HERE and either donate or get inspired to do a challenge of your own!

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The 2nd Annual Fall Affair Recap

VR BANNER

Thank you so much to everyone who came out and celebrated with us at the Fall Affair on September 6! The event was a huge success- so a HUGE THANKS to each of you for your generous support and contributions to what was truly a night to remember. Everyone came dressed to the nines and ready to dance, eat, drink, and support First Descents. Everywhere you turned you got a little bit of FD and what we’re all about. From live graffiti art, and color-changing cups to Soul Poles, a vintage Airstream, and breakdancers, every element of the night celebrated Out Living it!

Special thanks go to Josh Behr, FD Board member and event honoree, and Conor Hall, our alumni speaker. Through the incredible energy and support of our 237 attendees the Fall Affair raised more than $107,000 for First Descents!

Thanks to everyone who purchased raffle tickets before and during the event! Your enthusiasm for these exciting prizes raised nearly $7,000 for FD. All winners have been personally notified. We’ll include a photo album from the event in our September newsletter!

Thank you again to everyone for showing your endless love and support for First Descents. Please be sure to save the date for our next celebration – the 9th Annual First Descents Ball on March 21, 2015, at The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch.  

Special thanks to all of our sponsors for making this night possible.

Genentech
Kirk & Kathy MacKenzie
The Behr Team
Land Title Guarantee Company
Englewood Mortgage
McWhinney
Sage Hospitality
Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers
AE Interiors
AGC Scholarships
BW Bacon
Perkins Coie
Upslope Brewing Company
Montanya Distillers
Dark Horse Wine

FDtributaries Update

It’s been a summer of waves and downward dogs for FDtributaries. Between June and August, over 120 alumni, Base Campers, Rocks, and FD supporters have connected with their local FD community on rad adventures. We’ve SUP’d Class II whitewater on the Upper Colorado River, sailed Puget Sound, kayaked the canals of the Potomac and through bioluminescent waters outside of Orlando, surfed Pacific Beach, and practiced our tree poses in Chicago and Boston.
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FDtribs Colorado – August 1, camping along the Upper Colorado River

 

 

 

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FDtribs Colorado – August 2, SUP’ing Class II whitewater on the Upper Colorado River

 

 

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FDtribs Seattle – July 18, sailing on Puget Sound

 

 

 

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FDtribs Seattle – August 21, SUP and kayak on Elliott Bay

 

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FDtribs San Diego – surfing Pacific Beach

 

 

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FDtribs DC – muddy water shenanigans in Potomac canals

 

 

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FDtribs Chicago – sunset yoga on the lakeshore

 

 

 

 

7 reasons to try surfing this summer

The crew at FD has come up with 7 reasons why YOU should try surfing this summer (if you aren’t already hanging 10 at an FD program!)

JWCF_Sunscreen_Tube1. You’ll get some Sun on your cheeks–both sets if you so choose. But don’t forget the sunscreen!

 

 

 

 

Obama Shaka2. You can master your Shaka Brah – No where else is it as cool to Shaka Brah, than when you are hanging ten in the tube getting pitted. Shaka Brah!

 

 

 

Point-Break-0073. You get to pretend that you are Keanu Reeves in Point Break. 

 

 

 

blue crush4. For the ladies– getting to pretend you are Kate Bosworth from Blue Crush.

 

 

 

turtle5. You get to hang with some of the earth’s coolest creatures! (turtles, dolphins, fish, rays, SHARK!)

 

 

 

surf blog6. THIS. 

 

 

 

bug7. ‘Cause surfing is SO much sicker than cancer, brah!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FIRST DESCENTS ON GOOD DAY NEW YORK

We were so honored to be featured on Good Day NY this morning, August 7th, 2014. Two of our incredible alumni, Tara Page and FD board member Rochelle Shoretz took the time to talk about First Descents and how it has impacted their lives in such a positive way. Thank you to them, and Good Day NY for spreading the word about First Descents and how fighters, survivors, donors, and volunteers can get involved! See the interview by clicking on the photo below.

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