Tag Archives: Josh Dueck

Adventurer of the Year: Josh Dueck

Josh Dueck
Josh Dueck won a Silver Medal in the Vancouver Paralympics, 2010. Photo: Freeskier.com

Part 7 of our look at National Geographic’s candidates for “Adventurer of the Year.”

The first time I saw Josh Dueck, he rolled onto the stage at the Banff Film Festival and the crowd shot to its feet. They had come to see the “Radical Reels” films, but clearly were more stoked at seeing him as their MC for the night. I could see why. Not only had Josh brought Canada a silver medal in the Vancouver Paralympic Games, but he had just become the first skier to ever land a back flip in a sit ski. Talk about unstoppable.

Since his paralyzing injury in 2004, Josh has gone on to have a bigger career than most able-bodied skiers could hope for:

Josh Dueck has won more medals since his paralyzing ski injury than ever before. photo: Hannah Johnson
Josh Dueck photo: Hannah Johnson

1st Place Mono Skier X (X-Games, Aspen 2010)

3rd Place Mono Skier X (X-Games, Aspen 2012)

1st Place Downhill, World Cup (Whistler 2009)

1st Place Downhill, World Championship (Korea, 2009)

1st Place Super G, World Cup (Panorama 2012)

The list goes on, but you get the idea. The guy is a powerhouse, he loves to shred. He lives to shred. He may have been dealt a really lousy card, but if anything, this has only powered him forward to become, not just a world champion, but a world class inspiration.

What’s so refreshing about Josh, when you read his blog or see him interviewed, is the clarity he shines on life and what really matters. This odyssey isn’t one he willingly undertook. To sever your spine at the beginning of your career would be enough to stop most guys cold. Period. Over. Retreat into self-pity, or worse. That’s not Josh. Not only did he become a better skier, he became a bigger person. Open, articulate, refreshingly honest. Take this excerpt from a recent trip to Colorado:

To summarize, I skied like crap. It was a rough stretch of getting my arse kicked by the mountain, myself and the other athletes. I could get into the details but it’s no more than a long list of complaints that equate to a poor outlook on the challenges presented. Leaving Colorado feeling quite discouraged I did my best to keep my head up and focus on the simple fact that I get to ski for a living and that’s pretty awesome. I trust that with some minor adjustments and a bit of hard work that the rest of the details will inevitably sort themselves. — from JoshDueck.com

The day Josh took his back flip onto an airbag on the slopes – his first real run on the ramp he would use – was the day he heard his close friend Sarah Burke had died of injuries sustained in Park City.

“We just got the phone call that Sarah had passed away. I just fell over. We were in a place that Sarah absolutely loved, and it was a good afternoon to be doing what we were doing. Instead of being afraid to hit the airbag, I said, I know exactly what Sarah would do. She loved to be afraid and overcome those challenges. There was no question. I said, “We’re doing this.” Her energy carried through what we were attempting to do that day.” – excerpt from Nat Geo interview.

To find gratitude where others find only adversity… might just be the rarest of qualities any of us can learn.

Personally, I’m not sure if Josh is a better skier or a better human. Whatever strength he’s tapped to lead himself through this new chapter in life is pretty damn amazing. He may not be superman, but he puts it out there. He lives life like a champion. Not because of his achievements, but because of his vulnerabilities. And his remarkable ability to look past them and say, “Yes, we’re doing this.”

Don’t forget to vote by Jan. 16, 2013.

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Living Impeccably

Julien Millot photo by Seb Montaz
Julien Millot photo by Seb Montaz

Living impeccably isn’t always obvious. Or easy. But when someone is doing it, we feel it. It doesn’t matter whether we fully understand what they do. It doesn’t even matter that we have a basis for comparison. We just know. It can be in sports. It can be in art. It can be in the way someone leads their life. We know it by how they hold themselves. By the confidence they exude. By the pride they take in their actions. And the generosity with which they share it.

Josh Dueck has won more medals since his paralyzing ski injury than ever before. photo: Hannah Johnson
Josh Dueck has won more medals since his paralyzing ski injury than ever before. photo: Hannah Johnson

Can you imagine being on a climbing team, 20,000 feet into the Himalayas, and not doing your best to set the next pitch? Can you imagine packing a parachute with anything less than absolute focus? Or approaching a class IV river rapids without every cell in your body coming alive with the challenge before you? You cannot.  These circumstances command you to be excellent. I think this is why adventurers share such a bond with each other. Sure, their personalities may clash, but there is a deeper bond of respect that forms when you are pursuing something brutally difficult, when you are all pushed to the limits of your capacity. And hold each others’ lives in your hands.

Pablo Picasso painted, sketched or sculpted nearly every day, from childhood until his death at 91.
Pablo Picasso painted, sketched or sculpted nearly every day, from childhood until his death at 91.

Am I advocating that we all live, pushing the red line, 24/7? Of course not. Our bodies would never sustain it. But I am advocating a commitment to be excellent, wherever we are, whatever we’re doing. Or to work tirelessly to change what we’re doing, until this is possible. Why? Because being less than excellent is a drain on our souls. It saps us. It steals our nourishment. We have bargained away our worth for pennies.

By contrast, we are nourished whenever we give our best. When we help someone. When we make a difference.  When we meet the challenge before us, without complaint. Unconvinced? Think back over your life to your proudest moment. An achievement of some sort, a kindness rendered. You know it already. You felt tall. You felt strong. You needed nothing more in that moment. That’s the nourishment we’re talking about. It came from being excellent. It came from giving everything.

Lindsey Van won a long legal battle to bring women's ski jumping into the Olympics, beginning in 2014. photo: AP
Lindsey Van won a long legal battle to bring women’s ski jumping into the Olympics, beginning in 2014. photo: AP

The excellence we’re talking about is not objective excellence. It is an inner excellence, born of giving your best. If you are giving your best, you fear no criticism. Does the Olympic gymnast scoff at the nine year old girl, who is just learning to pull her first handstand in the rings? Her body is wobbly, her form imperfect, she may never even compete professionally, but if that nine year old is committed? And determined? Giving 100%? No one can fail to see that. No one can withhold respect.

What no one respects is selfishness. And herein lies the two great poles of life. The great choice we face, in every moment. We can either be selfish, calibrating our every effort by its expected return to us. Or we can be self-less, giving freely, for the sheer joy of doing what we came here to do. Being excellent at something. Whatever that something is. We can be nourished by it, in ways more profound than we could ever know beforehand.

Gustavo Dudamel, courtesy LA Philharmonic
Gustavo Dudamel, courtesy LA Philharmonic

indian sculptor (photo credit unknown)
indian sculptor (photo credit unknown)

Adventurers of the Year 2013

Mike Libecki explores Greenland.  photo: Keith Ladzinski
Mike Libecki explores Greenland. photo: Keith Ladzinski
Every November, National Geographic unveils their Top Ten list of candidates for their Adventurer of the Year Award. Anyone can vote online and you have until Jan. 16th to do it.

This is not an easy choice. You don’t get on this list for doing anything mediocre. Or halfway. You get there for “remarkable achievements in exploration, conservation, humanitarianism, etc., blah-blah…” We call it kicking some proverbial ass in the adventure world!

What’s great about this list are the awesome stories and images that go along with it. Like me, you probably have no clue what most of these people have done. Trust me, it’s worth finding out.

So, in a first for Xpedition.TV, we’re going to take a look at every one of these awesome men and women. A few we’ve written about before (think: helium balloon & space capsule). One or two I’ve met in person. Others… I guess we’re just gonna find out.

Look for daily posts about each, although that’s probably ambitious. There’s so much to say about each of them! More to come…