20to30 recently chatted with kayaker Brad Ludden about his new non-profit, “First Descents.”


Though he had completed over 100 first descents and was crowned one of America’s top bachelors by Cosmopolitan Magazine, Ludden stepped out of the spotlight to pursue a new passion – philanthropy.


Inspired by his aunt’s battle with breast cancer, Brad Ludden founded “First Descents” to offer young cancer survivors the chance to experience the exhilarating “first descent” of kayaking.


Here is some of what you may have missed in our video interviews with Ludden…


Why does First Descents focus on Young Adult Cancer Survivors as opposed to all Cancer Survivors?


One of the main inspirations for First Descents was my Aunt’s fight with breast cancer when she was in her 30’s.
I watched helplessly as she struggled to find meaningful and relevant support to understand the specific issues she was facing as a young adult. Sadly, there weren’t any.


A few years later, when I decided to start FD, I did a bit of research and found that there were hundreds of support programs in the US for kids with cancer but only a handful for young adults, despite the fact that 72,000 young adults are diagnosed in the US each year.


Furthermore, young adults are facing specific challenges that we can all relate to, challenges such as starting a family, dating, debt, jobs, college, etc. All of these challenges are made extremely complicated by a diagnosis of cancer.


For all of these reasons and more, First Descents has decided focus on the young adult cancer community to provide meaningful and relevant support through outdoor adventure to combat so many of the aforementioned psychosocial challenges young adults face.


What are some of the common challenges you’ve noticed for young adults cancer survivor?


A lot of challenges with body image, self confidence and self esteem, anxiety, depression, alienation and isolation from their peer groups. They’re also dealing with challenges of fertility, dating and raising young kids.


What does effect does being Nature, outside of “the bubble” have on your campers?


We’ve seen so many positive results from those who’ve attended FD programs. Through legitimate challenges, authentic adventures we’ve built a powerful community of like minded people and a culture that empowers all of us to be “out living it”.


In other words, these outdoor challenges and the resulting community have become the platform to overcome so many of the adverse challenges associated with a diagnosis of cancer for a young adult.


What kind of hikes, kayaking, cycling trips do you go on ? How good do you have to be? Can you be a beginner?


First Descents accepts ANY and ALL who are willing to take on the adventure- NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY!
In fact, it’s better if you haven’t experienced these challenges before FD. We keep our program numbers small so that we can accommodate everyone’s needs and just ask for people to be open to adventure in order to attend.


As for the adventures we offer, we started with just whitewater kayaking and have since expanded to include surfing, rock climbing, mountaineering, trekking, rafting, mountain biking, SUPing, sea kayaking and other great outdoor adventures!


What U.S states and countries do you run most of your programs in? Where would you like to go that you haven’t been to yet?


We run programs all over the country (I think we’re in 16 states this year alone) and have done programs internationally in places like Costa Rica, Mexico, Bali, Patagonia, Peru, Vietnam, Canada and others.


As for places we haven’t yet been but would like to go, the sky is the limit! I would love to see us operate more programs in Canada, expand to every state in the US and send a crew to Africa!


First Descents hosts young cancer survivor free of charge, how do you do it?


The generosity of thousands makes these life-changing adventures possible.


We have a great crowd-funding platform called Team FD where people can sign up to partake in/host any event and raise money through it. This could be anything from a back yard bbq to participating in high profile events like the NYC Marathon and the Leadville 100.


We also host events, such as our annual gala and the 80’s ski party, rely on grants and the generosity of individuals. All of that money raised funds first descents for young adults with cancer.


What does “out living it” mean to you?


I love this question! Out Living It should apply to ALL of us.

Of course, there’s the obvious meaning of being outside and living it up, and then there’s the double meaning of out living the cancer whether literally or metaphorically.

But to me Out Living It means identifying those things in your life that challenge, hinder, hold you back and breaking free of them! It means defining how you’re going to live each day and doing it. It means planning extraordinary adventures with close friends, challenging yourself each day and living outside of your comfort zone.
And above all else, it means living with a sense of urgency and intention.


What is a soul curator? And where do I sign up :-)?

Ha! I think you already are one… :)


Do you have results?

We do have results and are (fingers crossed) about to get them published in the next month or two! Sadly, until they’re published, I can’t speak specifically to the results. :(



Laura is the founder of 20to30.com. She decided to create an online community to share those universal 20to30 moments that never made it onto CVs, bios or wikipedia entries.

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