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Joel Heath, founder of FluidStance, passionately believes that the purpose of his company “is to help set the world in motion.” Between his highly innovative FluidStance decks and his dedicated support of First Descents, Joel is achieving this health mission.
When we called up Joel to chat, we heard wind blowing and voices in the background on the other side of the phone line. “I always take walks when I get on conference calls,” he admitted. Joel has a profound appreciation for the empowerment brought on by a simple dose of fresh air. “I see it with my mom,” he explained. “She currently has breast cancer, and I’m watching how dehumanizing cancer can be, but a moment in the outdoors can just remind us that life is rich, and it’s not only medicine that creates healing.”
Throughout our conversation we continued to realize that Joel does not just bring motion to his personal life: FluidStance’s “Keep Moving” mantra is imbued in the heart of the organization.
Joel has been involved with First Descents since the beginning in 2001. At the time he was working for the Vail Tourism Bureau building kayak parks for the Mountain Games. Back then, “We were interviewing athletes to become the ambassador of the Summer for Vail, and spoke to a ton of different athletes. Everybody wanted things like big money or a house in the valley, but then I had the opportunity to meet Brad. It was the day that Outside Magazine had put him on the front cover. I told Brad what we were looking for and he said, ‘This sport has given so much to me – I want to give back to it. I want to create a kayak program for people with cancer. If you can help me make that happen in Vail, then I’ll move there.’” Joel recalled, “I literally shook hands with the 17 year-old Brad Ludden in that moment, and a couple of months later he moved to Vail…So yeah, I was involved early. Everything from making ham sandwiches the first couple of years to planning the first FD week-long program.”
Joel’s excitement for the healing power of adventure has not dwindled since that first handshake exhibited by the meaningful partnership between First Descents and FluidStance.
“I always had devoted my charitable giving to FD, so when I started FluidStance I decided to continue that commitment.” FluidStance supports First Descents through a Pledge 1% Commitment. “Not just our profit, but 1% of all money that comes in from customers we give back to First Descents.” The FluidStance team is involved with FD on a personal level as well, volunteering at First Descents programs and hosting events in support of FD, like their upcoming 80’s Ski Party and their 11% Giving Tuesday pledge that generously supports young adults impacted by cancer.
The connection between FluidStance and FD is equally evident in the way that our organizations each believe that a movement-oriented lifestyle is key to physical and emotional health. FluidStance believes that “if you can create subtle changes in your heart rate in little increments throughout the day it actually has a greater impact than if you went to the gym for an hour.” Joel added, “That’s really our belief in Keep Moving.”
First Descents’ Out Living It mantra points to this same sentiment.
“The mentality that when an employer hires your mind they also get your body is just false. It’s really important that people start to own their bodies again, whether it’s in the face of cancer or an employer. It’s your choices that are going to represent your health; it’s these small choices, in the little minutes throughout a life, that add up to big things.”
For both FluidStance and First Descents, the challenge is that intangibles can be difficult to measure. Joel pushes back on this approach. “We have a philosophy in America to focus on what we can measure. But the crazy part is, if First Descents or FluidStance could put what we deliver in a little pill we would all be billionaires. Happiness is a big deal. Creating space to survive is a big deal. Teaching somebody that they’re not broken is an even bigger deal. Those are the intangibles.”
First Descents’ goal is to empower participants to continue out living it long after their FD program is over leading to lifelong changes. Joel emphasized, “It’s the same thing for us at FluidStance. Early on, I remember reading a testimonial from a participant, and she said, ‘For the first time since I was diagnosed with cancer you’ve treated me like I was not broken.’ FD does this every week. It’s why the organization sticks to me, and why FD was the easy choice when I wanted to see how my organization could continue to make a difference and not just make money.”
As we wrapped up our call, Joel mentioned that he was standing over the Pacific Ocean on a pier a short fifteen minute walk from his office.
“Life doesn’t have to be rigid, and life doesn’t have to be seated. My view is that life is not a spectator sport and First Descents is not treating cancer as an institutional endeavor. Healing can happen without walls. It can happen with connection and laughter, and recognizing that you’re not broken. It can all happen outside.”
First Descents is grateful to FluidStance for their meaningful partnership over the years and their continued Pledge 1% Commitment. This Giving Tuesday, they will be donating 11% of all proceeds made today to First Descents. If you are interested in checking out the entire line of FluidStance decks and living a life in motion, visit their website at fluidstance.com to get your deck today!