Lead Staff

Sean Podrecca - "Scrawny"

My name is Sean “Scrawny” Podrecca and I was born in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Growing up I got heavily into mountain biking which speared my love of the outdoors to this day. I attended college in North Carolina where I obtained my degree in Outdoor Recreation. I soon found employment working for the military, jumping between the Army and Air Force working as the Adventure Program Manager for the past four years in Colorado, Kentucky, and California. I enjoy many different outdoor high adventure sports and would say I am a jack of all trades, master of none. My main focus over the past few years has been in white water kayaking and rock climbing, and I have been lucky enough to paddle and climb in many unique locations throughout the United States.

Max Keller - "Pleezah"

I was born and raised in the north-country in Minnesota but able to grow up in the back country exploring the outdoors around North Carolina while attending UNC-Asheville.  Now, I’m living in a small town in the mountains and near the rivers in Colorado.  Thirteen years in college and all I have to show for it is a bachelor’s degree.  Like Mark Twain, “I never let my schooling interfere with my education,” I seem to have gravitated down a path of activities and employment that has inspired me internally versus monetarily.  I’ve made, sold, welded, built, caught, taught, trapped, trained, tagged, bagged, assisted, instructed, consulted, cleaned, chopped, represented, ushered, guarded, guided, led, read, even put preschoolers to bed and I’m sure a few more that I didn’t get to.  When I get to be outdoors and am able to feel the energy of something much larger than myself, I feel at home.

I like to play outside, run, boat, jump, fly, float, make art, make music, watch, wonder, explore, climb trees, climb rocks, laugh, love, cry, smile, skip, splash, surf, swing, swim and swear that I’m living the life…wanna go ride bikes?  I love to learn, look to grow, seek to share and hope to inspire others to as well, along the way.

I’ve learned so far in life that connections are what sooths my soul, so I look for them within my interactions among the people I am surrounded by and the world around me.  A few of my priorities are to be present, be my best and try not to compare myself to others.

Andrew Gonzales - "Pedro"

I currently live in the great state of Montana, where the abundance of outdoor pursuits keeps me busy and out of trouble. I love kayaking, plain and simple. I live through the idea that if you’re doing what you love all the time, you’re happy. I don’t go to work everyday wishing I was somewhere else. I get up and go to work everyday and I am stoked.  And that does not suck! I absolutely love First Descents and find sharing my passion for kayaking the greatest reward I could ever receive.

Fred Coriell - "Derf"

BIO COMING SOON

Josh Bechtel - "Wreck"

BIO COMING SOON

Jacob Anderson - "Spoonberg"

Jacob Anderson (a.k.a Spoonberg) was born and raised in Colorado, where he developed a love for the outdoors. He is most at home in the seat of a kayak or on a pair of skis. Jake graduated from Fort Lewis College studying Spanish and French. In his time in the workforce he has done everything from washing dishes, working on a farm, and leading trips for First Descents. Of many days that Jake spends outdoors his favorite are those spent with First Descents participants. He always has two eyes on the horizon and can’t wait to see what is around the next bend in the river.

Nick Barbouletos - "Patch"

Hey I’m Patch! I’m from Bozeman, MT and this is my 6th year with FD.  When I’m not on the river you’ll catch sight of me sking at Big Sky on the Ski Patrol or volunteering with my local fire department. I try to spend as much time as I can going fast over water.  I truly believe that spending time with friends outside is the key to a happy life.  See you out there!

Tom Barry - "McStillin"

Tom was born and raised on Long Island and slowly realized that the mountains we too far away. A degree in Adventure Recreation and a passion for  Whitewater Kayaking and Skiing led him to Colorado, where he lives now. First Descents came along at the right time and helped combine Tom’s love for the outdoors with an incredibly powerful experience. When he’s not at FD you can find McStillin on the Arkansas River or instructing for the Adaptive Sports Center in Crested Butte, CO.

Ashlee Moskwa - "Rainier"

Born and raised in small town New England, Ashlee (aka Rainier), the youngest of three siblings, spent most of her childhood bouncing between the soccer field, basketball court, and ice rink. Cancer first entered her life as a freshman in high school, challenging her personal dreams and ambitions and introducing her to the world of medicine. Following Ashlee’s graduation from nursing school, an immense desire for adventure motivated her to drive 3300 miles cross country to start a career in Seattle as a pediatric Hematology/Oncology and Stem Cell Transplant nurse.  The beautiful state of Washington – complete with rivers, lakes, mountains, volcanoes and the like – enabled Ashlee to develop a deep appreciation for the great outdoors.

After learning of FIRST DESCENTS by way of a magazine article, Ashlee volunteered as medical staff for her first program in 2011. It took just one week climbing in the Rockies with FIRST DESCENTS to fall head over heels in love with all that is FD. Eight programs and three summers later, Ashlee still cannot get enough! Currently a full time pediatric nurse in Chicago, she will be returning as both Lead Staff and medical volunteer. Forever an outdoor enthusiast and camp nurse at heart, Ashlee spends her free time rock climbing,  traveling, laughing, volunteering, and preparing for life’s next great adventure :)

Kelly Gallagher Crowe - "Honey Bucket"

Originally from Washington State, Kelly moved to Montana fifteen years ago to be a snowboard instructor.  That move led her to becoming a raft guide and was the start to her seasonal life disorder.  The only requirements for this disorder is that you love to be outside, you’re ok with living in buses and vans and you have an exuberant amount of outdoor gear.   Her seasonal life disorder has led her to many life adventures.  She has traveled around the world; rafting on the White Nile in Uganda, wondering through Tibetan villages, rock climbing in Greece, working in Nepali health clinics, climbing mountains in Kenya, diving off the Burma coast and trekking though mountains in the Andes and Himalayas.  But none of it compares to the adventures she gets to be a part of working for First Descents!

Kelly started with First Descents back in 2006 as a volunteer and since then she has been completely addicted to the strength, compassion, and inspiration that encompass every individual that participates in a program.   When she is not working at First Descents she helps manage a resort and raft company in West Glacier, Montana.  She also teaches wilderness medicine and helps train aspiring seasonally disordered guides.  In her spare time you might find Kelly, her husband Ryan and eskipoo Zoey (yep that’s right we said eskipoo, google it, they are darn cute) wandering about Colorado and the desert southwest living in their van rock climbing.  Kelly is certified in swiftwater rescue and is a wilderness EMT.

Heather Herbeck - "Mrs. Robinson"

The Columbia River Gorge is my home, though I was born and raised most of my life in Southern MN.  After graduating with a BA in Exercise Science in Southern California, I moved back to MN and that’s when I found my best friend and husband of nearly 14 years.

My husband, Nate, taught me how to use the outdoors as my playground.  It was only when I met him did I get immersed into kayaking, mt biking, climbing and other outdoor sports.  And now . . . THIS IS MY LIFE!  Our lives revolve around getting outside and pushing limits.

I have made kayaking my profession.  As a sponsored athlete and kayak instructor, I push my personal skills but also enjoy sharing the passion and opportunity that was given to me.  I have been part of FD as the lead kayak instructor for the past 4 years.  I am excited to now be working directly with FD and experiencing a different approach to this organization.

I look forward to being a part of this FD team; being a part of changing lives; and, continuing to evolve and change mine.

Joanne Smith - "Pop Top"

Joanna Belmont Smith grew up in the beautiful Berkshire mountains of Massachusetts, never too far from the beaches of Cape Cod!  A sports lover since elementary school, Jo recognizes the importance of activity in every day life.  There is no sport that she hasn’t or wouldn’t try, including kayaking, surfing and climbing, the FD triad.  Jo graduated from Springfield College with a Bachelors of Science in Movement and Sports studies, and later earned a Masters of Education in Educational Leadership from Simmons College.  She is a PE and Health teacher by day, and an FD supporter in her spare time.  She has held such positions as Camp Mom, Photog, and now as Lead Staff with FD and looks forward to many more calls to duty.

Ben Williamson - "TBD"

Born the second son of two school teachers in what was once a small town of Bothell WA.  Ben started guiding in high school and has had a seasonal life ever since.  He moved to Bellingham WA to get a degree in outdoor recreation at Western Washington University and has made recreation into a lifestyle.  Now has a small place in Glacier WA, a town without cell phones, and skis 150 days a year as a professional ski patroller at Mt Baker Ski Area. He spends his time off in the winter snowmobiling and ski touring in the surrounding backcountry. In the summer when not working for First Descents, Ben  is a kayak guide for a family run guiding company, Anacortes Kayak Tours, in the San Juan Islands. In the  bit of summertime not working , Ben spends the rest his time mountain biking, paddling whitewater and sleeping in the pacific northwest.  Do what you love for work and you’ll never work a day in your life!