Life Starts at the Finish Line

Written by KEEN Ambassador Bruckner Chase

On the back of my business card is a quote by Jean-Michel Cousteau: “When one man for whatever reason has the opportunity to live an extraordinary life, he has no right to keep it to himself.”

Endurance and adventure-oriented athletes put months or even years of training and preparation into quests for a variety of finish lines. And yet, often times upon reaching the end of any hard-fought personal goal, the elations of the moment quickly turn to feelings of melancholy or depression as the question of, “What’s next?” hangs heavy. In fact, the most frequently asked finish-line question of athletes seems to be, “How do you feel now that you have finished?”

A few years ago I completed an exciting 25-mile solo swim across Monterey Bay in a personal quest of discovery and adventure. Working alongside NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuaries, we had a goal of moving people towards action to protect the health and well being of our oceans and our communities. While talking to reporters and audiences following the swim, I began to see the potential for what we could do with the experiences gained from each finish line we cross.

Last year I realized a lifelong dream by completing in the iconic Coolangatta Gold Surf Lifesaving Iron Man race in Australia, and my epiphany moment came not out on the ocean during the event but standing on the grass next to the podium. This feeling after an extraordinary personal experience is one that needed to be shared. Crossing the Coolangatta Gold finish line was a step across a starting line of something far bigger. To me this Blue Journey life is about an ongoing quest to connect to the oceans and share the stories and knowledge gained from these experiences to inspire others.

In the ten months since that Gold finish line, we’ve taught surf lifesaving sports to inner-city youth in Camden, trained para-athletes to compete alongside non-disabled lifeguards in long distance paddleboard events, prepared youth to become professional lifeguards, and taken new athletes from age 26 to 76 for their first experiences beyond the waves off the Jersey Shore.

The summer has finished, but we’re just getting started. At 49, I’m discovering new ways to realize dreams of my youth while still creating new ones—and now I have a different answer to those finish line reporters: “That was incredible, and I want everyone to have the opportunity to feel like this.”

There isn’t a “finish” line any more, and how cool is that?