Brad Ludden portrait by Tom Bear

Brad Ludden portrait by Tom Bear

By Frederick Reimers

Here's everything you need to know about Brad Ludden: In October, the Vail, Colo., resident won Cosmopolitan magazine's 2008 Bachelor of the Year competition and promptly donated the $10,000 prize to First Descents, the outdoor ad- venture camp he founded for young cancer survivors. Oh, and he can flat out paddle, having notched first descents on more than 100 different rivers. Ludden has been a fixture on the whitewater scene since a 2000 cover story in Outside
magazine chronicled his sponsored odyssey on the freestyle kayaking circuit.

Unsatisfied with merely living river-to-river on his sponsors' dole, he founded First Descents in 2001, when he was just 20 years old. The organization has since provided week-long kayaking and climbing experiences for nearly 500 young adults. Now offering nine programs in six states, First Descents pegs Ludden's schedule to the redline. In the 15 days between his Cosmo triumph in New York City and his departure to Madagascar for another pioneering paddling expedition, he made dozens of media appearances in six states, attended a First Descents board meeting, and updated a blog on Cosmo's website. Our favorite entry: "I heart food! But before I can eat, I have to take my shirt off for Entertainment Tonight."

This story first appeared in the March 2009 issue of Canoe & Kayak magazine. Read more about Ludden and First Descents on


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