How do you follow up 2,400 miles of “pure adventure” paddling the length of the Mississippi River? If you’re Denver-based adventurer Rich Brand, you move on to saltwater, and set out to sea kayak the entire west coast of the United States.
Brand is the man behind Captured Heartbeats, movement that seeks to “inspire others to adventure while photographing the people, culture and environment.” After traveling and photographing much of North America by Jeep and motorcycle, he made his first kayak journey in 2014—a Mississippi source to sea. With the Ol’ Muddy behind him, Brand launched his sea kayak in Seattle in early May. We caught up with Brand on the Oregon coast, midway through his 1,000-mile journey to San Diego.
CanoeKayak.com: What was the impetus for Captured Heartbeats?
Rich Brand: It’s more than just traveling. It’s the ability to meet and be part of people’s lives. I have been welcomed by so many different lives and lifestyles. I interpret this as being able to see and experience the heartbeats of their lives. When the opportunity allows, I like to capture those through imagery.
When did you get into paddling? I see up until the Mississippi, most of your travels were motorized.
Prior to the Mississippi River adventure, I only had eight miles of paddling experience in my life. I did three miles in New Zealand in 2001 and I did five miles in my kayak a little over a week before I entered Lake Itasca. That was dry and empty in a local lake. The Mississippi River was 2,400 miles of pure adventure.
What did you learn on the Mississippi about paddling, yourself and the power of adventure?
In terms of paddling, I learned how to do it well. It was all new to me. I also learned the value of seeing the world at three miles per hour. It allows you to experience life and all the beauty in it in a way in which you can fully absorb it. I learned what it is like to gain and develop grit. You have to tough things out and push a little hard at certain point along the river. I cannot say enough kind, warm-hearted, and caring things about the people and the entire culture of the Mississippi River. My adventure allowed me to meet so many individuals and families from all walks of life.
For many people, it must feel like long journeys like the one you’re on are impractical, given the demands of life and work. How do you respond to this sort of attitude?
I understand it is a challenge for a lot of people. I chose to make my adventures a priority and reality. Adventures can be done at anytime. It is not important about the scope or scale. What is important is that you simply get outside and live.
What do you mean when you say, “We live to show what is possible”? How do you do this?
I believe in leading by example. I always encourage anyone I come across to follow your heart, chase your dreams, and to never give up. For myself, I have never been happier than when I am traveling. If there is something that makes you happy, why would you not want to pursue it?
You’ve said the west coast expedition “has been turning out more amazing than I ever thought.” Why?
It has allowed me to see the coastline in a whole new light. The hidden waterfalls, the deep caves, and the wildlife that is just as curious about me as I am of it. I have had the privilege of seeing hundreds of seals and sea otters. A baby grey whale came over to check me out the other day. There are just some experiences in life that leave your heart in a state of awe. The scale of the Pacific Ocean is hard to comprehend, but seeing a little bit each day makes this experience a grand one.