Brad Ludden

Founder of First Descents

Brad was given his first kayak when he was 9 years old. Three years later, he was traveling and competing internationally. By age 18, Brad had kayaked in over 20 countries and found his true passion within the sport - first descents. A first descent is the first time a person successfully kayaks a river or section of river that has never been done. In his first descents, he found immense challenge, adventure, community, and personal growth.

About the same time, Brad experienced firsthand what it is like to watch a loved one battle and contend with cancer. His aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 38. Brad started volunteering for a local pediatric oncology program and taught participants how to kayak. He loved what he was doing and started to create what is today known as First Descents - an incredible nonprofit organization that provides young adult cancer fighters and survivors the opportunity to climb, paddle, and surf beyond their diagnosis. First Descents empowers them to defy cancer, face their fears, and connect with others who are doing the same.

While he still kayaks and has sponsors like Dagger, AT Paddles, Kokatat and Smith Optics, Brad focuses the majority of his time on helping First Descents grow to serve more young adults with cancer.