Brad Ludden

Dec 3, 2009
Outside Magazine
Brad Ludden

Age: 28
Organization: First Descents
While Ludden may be photographed with his shirt off more than Matthew McCon­aughey—Ludden was on Outside's cover in 2000, and a few years later Cosmo named him Bachelor of the Year—he's not just a pretty torso. The pro kayaker's idea: Build a cancer patient's confidence by teaching him or her to kayak. After his aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer, Ludden founded First Descents in 2000 to provide what doctors call the other half of recovery—the emotional cure—to young cancer patients. Ludden has now taken 600 of them, ages 18 to 39, down rivers. "A week on the water reminds them that they're not fragile," he says. Past participants tell him that kayaking restored their courage, allowing them to bridge the gap between treatment and daily life. Though he's still kayaking intense water—Ludden recently filmed the documentary The River Ward in Madagascar—he's changing focus. "More and more, I find fulfillment in teaching people," he says. So what'd he do with the $10,000 Cosmo gave him for the bachelor title? Promptly donated it to First Descents. "Share your passion with somebody in need," he says. "It'll make both your lives better."