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A Life of First Descents

By: Brad Ludden, Founder

With COVID-19 still sweeping across the US and the globe, First Descents Founder Brad Ludden wanted to check in with the FD community to offer some perspective on embracing uncertainty, and to encourage us all to dive into these challenges so we can emerge on the other side stronger and more connected than ever before. Here’s what Brad had to say.


In these unprecedented times, I’ve found myself spending considerable hours contemplating my own ability to cope in the face of uncertainty, and perhaps grow from it as well.

In moments like these, the river is where I find answers, wisdom and helpful metaphors for life, so that is where I turn now. The river, and adventure in general, is my lifeline during trying times. The waters that flow through the Earth’s valleys and gorges and basins offer comfort and perspective, so I tether myself back to them to recenter and rebalance. 

In the peak of my career as an athlete, my biggest passion and pursuit was descending a river nobody had ever kayaked before – a first descent. It wasn’t the rapids, or claim to being the first, that drew me in. It was the uncertainty that every first descent offered. Within that uncertainty there was the potential for discovery – both external and internal. There was the promise of grand adventure, unforgettable memories forged in the face of challenge, and the knowledge that, regardless of what happened, I was guaranteed to emerge on the far side a more whole, learned and aware version of myself.

These first descents and their teachings are what inspired the name for First Descents. I knew the rivers our participants would explore had been kayaked many times before, but for them, it was a first, and in that first awaited all of the same uncertainty, challenge, adventure and growth of any first descent I had ever experienced.

And those truths are on full display today. We find ourselves facing that same feeling of uncertainty, but we can’t lose sight of the opportunity it holds for us to emerge on the far side of it stronger, more connected to ourselves and our loved ones, wiser, and better for it. In life’s most challenging moments are teachings that will shape us forever after. Lean into that uncertainty, embrace it, study it, apply its teachings, and revel in your ability to grow from it. 

When this storm clears — and it will — we can reconnect in our favorite wild spaces and places. We will once again connect through our shared challenges, this one included. 

I look forward to that time, but until then, I know that we’ll appreciate it that much more because of the challenges we face now. 

With love to you all, and excitement and anticipation for more adventures soon…

Brad

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