Inspiration and motivation come from different places for different people: A movie, a book, a song, a memory.
For Rich Brand, it comes from within and he’s doing his utmost to share it with as many people as he can.
From a kayak.
With nothing to keep him company except his thoughts of inspiring young people to reach for the stars.
Brand is completing a 12,000 kilometre circumnavigation of the Eastern Seaboard and parts of Canada in a 19-foot Seaward kayak that was custom built for his 6’4 frame.
Why? He pauses briefly, “Because I can. To be the role model I wish I’d known when I was 20 years old.”
Last week, Brand came ashore in Caribou River. He spent the night on the beach in Big Agnes, his light orange four-season tent, pitched beside his kayak and gear. He fell asleep to the soothing sounds of the waves splashing across the sand then rolling back out to sea, his only light the bright stars that punctuated the dark night sky.
Before he landed on the sandy Caribou River beach, he said he was “literally a few miles down the road” at the provincial park.
“I came up here and as I was passing by these little kids — probably middle-school-aged kids — started getting in their kayaks and coming out to me so I turned around just to say hi and then started talking to their parents, who are adventurers themselves, and I ended up staying here and sharing stories with them,” he gestures to the beach and his makeshift campsite.
“Last night, I went up to their cottage, had dinner up there, shared some stories and talked with them and enjoyed their company for the evening. Then I came back down here and set up camp. We did marshmallows and I showed them how to whittle sticks — and that was a fun experience. Just because it’s summer break doesn’t mean there’s not opportunities to see kids and inspire them.”
That philosophy of inspiring kids is what drives Brand.
“When I was 20 I had my mom — she raised all three of us boys, but I didn’t have a male role model.”
He’s now 41 and is an inspiration to all ages.
“There’s not enough role models for kids anymore — between their phones and their gadgets they don’t get out to see the world and see what’s out there a lot. So I decided to bring the world to them,” he shrugs.
Brand, who is originally from the Clearwater, Fla., area but has spent the past 18 or so years living in Denver, Colo., offers motivational speeches to kids in schools from middle school to college. “I show them what’s possible. And you can’t talk the talk if you don’t walk the walk. It’s an old-school philosophy but it still applies today.”
Brand does talk the talk and walk the walk and chronicles it all through his adventure company and website, Captured Heartbeats (www.capturedheartbeats.com). Here, he posts his adventures through photos, videos, diaries and maps in hopes of inspiring a younger generation. His previous experience running a graphic design/photography company for 17 years provides the skills for him to do that.
“I have an opportunity to reach kids in a way that others can’t, in a good way. I don’t say much more than what parents and teachers do, but I come in on a kayak or a motorcycle or something “different” that strikes their fancies or turns their heads a little bit.”
This journey started in New Orleans on January 3, 2016. “I made it to Portland, Me., on October 15. I took the winter off, went to DC to work and do talks down there and then I left Portland, Me., on May 2 of this year and I got here.”
Brand enjoyed a variety of stops along this journey. “Normally I’d paddle 30 K a day, give or take a few. But lately it’s been horrible because of the wind.”
This is his fifth such adventure. He has kayaked in New Zealand, on the Mississippi River and from Seattle to San Diego.
River kayaking differs from kayaking on the ocean in at least one significant way. His eyes grow big and he laughs while gesturing behind him to the ocean, “There’s things that will eat you out here! Yes ma’am!”
Brand was preparing to leave the Caribou River shore on his way to Montreal; he expects to be there by Halloween.
“I’ll cut the trip there for this year and then I’ll pick it back up next May.
“This trip hasn’t been done before in a kayak and you can’t be a role model, you can’t inspire kids from the couch… Talk is cheap, talk is easy. If you can’t back it up, what have you got?”
Brand is not making big waves as he passes through communities along the way. He quietly goes about his kayaking, touching the lives of people he meets along the journey. People who have heard about his adventures follow his progress through his website and Facebook site.
“I’m quiet about this ‘cause I do what I do and I believe you just let your actions speak louder than words. People know that I’m out here and I have a lot of followers; when I talk to schools and teachers… they turn my Facebook page and videos up so they can see it.”
Brand shoots a video just about every day “to show the beauty of the culture and the topography and the people and the wildlife and everything and I show it just to inspire the kids to possibly want to come out here or come out and go anywhere and just to travel and push beyond their boundaries and beyond their comfort zones just to try something new and live life.”
He is taking nothing for granted and enjoying every minute. “I have seen right whales, seals, dolphins. This whole trip I’ve seen wild horses, I’ve seen gators, I’ve seen crocs, I’ve seen sharks in a variety of sizes…” he ticks off on his fingers. “There’s a symphony going on out there if you listen! You hear the seals and seagulls and the birds — you hear everything.”
None of that has scared him. What does frighten him is much deeper than wildlife. “The superficial answer is the boaters that don’t see you. Wildlife is what it is and they do what they do. I’m not afraid of it; I respect them but I’m not afraid of it. The deeper answer is I’m afraid of not finishing because I know there are kids that will be watching this trip for a long time to come and I don’t want to quit. I can’t quit. Quitting is not an option. It’s just not an option to me. If you quit is there an I Give Up Club? And if there is an I Give Up Club, I don’t want to be part of that club.”
His message is simple: “Get out. Life begins outside your comfort zone. Everything is possible, you just have to figure out how. Chase your passions. The world’s going to judge you regardless of what you do, you may as well do something epic and leave a mark.”
He smiles when asked about favourite places he’s visited. “My favourite place is right here, right now. I say that every day when I get to someplace new. Because yesterday is done and it was great; yesterday was fun and I don’t know what’s coming this afternoon, I don’t know what’s coming this evening so I definitely have a ‘live in the moment’ philosophy, but also plan for the future. Life’s short, it’s over before you know it. You gotta enjoy the ride.”
That philosophy, he explains, comes from inside. “Life is fleeting and life is over quick and can be done on any given day at any given minute, so you’ve gotta enjoy the best of what you have while you have it.”
That’s what he wants a younger generation to understand.
“I want to inspire kids. I want to inspire people to just chase their dreams, chase their passions. If it makes you happy you’ve gotta go pursue it at almost all cost ‘cause if you’re not happy doing something why are you doing it?”
He laughs, “A few months here and there on the ocean will give you time to think on stuff like that.”
What he doesn’t think about is where he’ll be spending the night.
“I never think about where I’m going to land because I have no idea where I’m going to land — when I take off from here I have no idea where I‘m going to be tonight.” He laughs, “I could be 10 miles out to sea if the wind catches me wrong!”
Sometimes, Brand is fortunate enough to be hosted by someone he encounters. And he says he is never afraid. “I’m six foot four and 275 pounds. Would you wrestle with me?” he laughs.
“People find what they’re looking for. If you’re looking for a fight you’ll find a fight. If you’re looking for amazing people you’ll find amazing people. If you’re looking for good you’ll find the good. I have found nothing but the most kind, generous, caring, giving of their time amazing people this entire trip. I have not run into bad people anywhere on this entire trip and it’s amazing. People are good everywhere, you just gotta get out to see ‘em and say hi.”
Brand is well prepared for his expedition. He carries his tent, toiletries, extra paddles, solar batteries that are charged from the solar panel on the deck of his kayak, a bivy sack, a variety of camera gear and a year’s worth of clothes in a 25-litre bag. “I have probably six or seven weeks of food with me right now and I resupply my water when I get to ports, towns and marinas. Backpackers Pantry out of Colorado supplied me with the food — unless I get hosted and then I get hamburgers, or whatever — and those are awesome! Warm meals? Absolutely!” he laughs.
Brand wasn’t sure how far he’d get when he left Caribou River last week.
“These winds are going to be a bear today. I’ll just hug the shore until I get to the next point.”
What happens when he runs out of shore? “Just keep paddling,” he smiles.
Follow Brand at:
FB: Captured Heartbeats
ABOVE: Rich Brand camped out on a beach in Caribou River last week as part of his 12,000 kilometre circumnavigation of the Eastern Seaboard and parts of Canada in a kayak.
INSET: Caribou River resident Red MacKean examines the flag on Rich Brand’s 19-foot kayak. The flag reads Captured Heartbeats, the name of Brand’s website and adventure company. The nautical flags on Brand’s kayak are T, I and A which, Brands laughs, stand for This Is Adventure. (Jardine photos)