Brad Ludden

Founder of First Descents, professional whitewater kayaker


Kalispell, MT


Whitefish, MT

As the founder of First Descents and a professional kayaker, Brad lives his passion by taking young adults with cancer into the rivers, mountains, and trails he calls home.

What are your three favorite rivers to show others?

  • The Lochsa River, Idaho
  • Kootenai River, North America
  • Zambezi River, Africa

What was your a-ha moment? How did you decide to start FD, and what does it mean to you?

Watching my Aunt fight her own battle with cancer as a young adult and realizing how few resources were available to her was integral to my growth. At the same time, my life had been transformed through outdoor adventure. I truly believed that if people like my Aunt had access to the outdoors it would help her on her journey to live a positive, fulfilled and happy life post-diagnosis. I was deciding between going to college and pursuing a career as a whitewater kayak athlete. I chose to be an athlete, but also realized that I wouldn't be fulfilled in that decision if I didn't find a way to share my love for the sport with others. The choice was clear - help people like my Aunt by teaching them to kayak.

What does Let The Outside In mean to you?

Through my work at First Descents, I've watched in awe as thousands of young adults with cancer have courageously taken on countless outdoor adventures because they have cancer. Through their pursuits, I've come to understand something that I've always known, but never fully appreciated - there is healing power in the outdoors. Let The Outside In is both literal and metaphorical. To me, it means opening yourself to those possibilities the outdoors offer, that way of living and those friendships that can only be forged through a good ol’ outdoor adventure.