Q&A: Kayaker and Windpower Fan Jeremy Rodgers
Jeremy Rodgers is a sponsored paddler for the US Canoe and Kayak Team, and a Colorado-based chiropractor, to boot. While his big water kayaking has given him an appreciation for the outdoors, he has shown commitment to the environment by living as green a lifestyle as he can and by traveling as green has he can: in a repurposed 2006 diesel-run van or his “Ultimate Multisport Van,” which is fully solar- and wind-powered and whose wind turbine he flies as “proudly as the American flag.” In the latest of our Q&As with green athletes, Jeremy tells us why athletes have a responsibility towards the environmental movements and why all adventures require a woman’s companionship.
SIERRA: What came first: Your chiropractic practice, your athletics, or your commitment to the environment?
JR: Growing up in Oklahoma, football and wrestling were king. Wrestling taught me many life lessons about discipline and balance that I attribute a lot of my success as a big water kayaker.
Environmental awareness was a distant thought to me growing up in the heart of the energy belt, where "if you can afford it, you have a right to consume it" This was the environmental attitude that defined the early 90's in the Midwest.
Much has changed, and I'm proud of my home state of Oklahoma for acceptance of local environmentalism. Where are your favorite places to paddle?
Every continent has jewel river basins that teach us the history of that country's own ecosystem, but if I had to commit to one place that makes the list of kayaker's best natural wonders, I'd put that place as Pacuare Canyon, Costa Rica with Southern Chile's Patagonia in a close second.
How did your commitment to green vehicles evolve--especially considering that it's not directly paddle-related?
Actually, green vehicles are an integral part of the sport of kayaking where driving two hours to paddle a one-hour stretch of river is commonplace. I purchased and converted a 2006 Mercedes Turbo Diesel Sprinter Van into the Ultimate Multisport Van in 2009 for the sole purpose of expressing my commitment to responsible travel.
This vehicle allows me to provide small-scale renewable energy awareness every time I park it. It has an impressive fuel economy of almost 24 mpg and being fully solar and wind powered, the Ultimate Multisport Van became the launching pad for my environmental expression.
While nuclear power is certainly the seems like the longest term sustainable solution to the world's energy consumption needs, solar and wind power provide the individual citizen to embrace change without waiting for a 1986 Delorean time machine.
I traveled to all six continents over the past 15 years while participating in healthcare relief work as a sports chiropractor. In those travels, it became quite clear how many of these off-the-grid countries present a near clean slate to develop sustainable energy practices without the influence of the industrial complex that drives U.S. energy policy.
Companies like KEEN have been my biggest catalyst for environmental activism through athletics. They support every idea I've proposed and have nurtured my interest with their own resources for responsible outdoor recreation.
What role do you believe athletes play in the environmental or social movements, and what do you see as your biggest challenge when pursuing your own work?
I think athletes have a profound responsibility to address the "If I can afford it, I can consume as much of it as I'd like." We all grew up watching professional athletes promote a brand or a product. I'm invested in promoting responsible use of our recreation areas and the "conserving even though you can afford it"
You probably have your hands full all the time, but how else do you spend your time beyond your three commitments? What upcoming projects to you have?
I operate a full-time sports chiropractic practice in Boulder, Colorado, which creates quite a juggling act between family, professional, and athletic interests.
I've taken recently to responsible drought-resistant gardening. Boulder, Colorado is high mountain desert and it's been a learning process to fight natural inclination to plant what appeals to the eye. Without investigating each plant species natural habitat, it's been a challenge for me and my wife to not for violate one of Colorado's most precious resources: water.
(Our Frisbee dog Mazzy certainly has responded favorably to our succulent garden plantings as well as--thorns seem to be a natural deterrent to canine destruction.)
What are the five items you can't live without--either for athletic or personal purposes?
- Pocket size hammock: You never know when you'll need sleep, and short of being lost in the desert, it’s always the winner.
- Jetboil: When in doubt, have some chai tea and think through your options.
- A woman's input when assessing a high risk situation: Men collectively tend to under-appraise the likelihood of an adverse event and over-appraise the value of success. I put this one on the list after 15 years of expedition-racing on co-ed teams, where teams run, ride, paddle and climb all by map and compass.
How do you see your sport becoming greener?
I must say I'm proud already of the green behaviors of kayakers and adventure racers who shun more the mainstream sports to escape to the trails and rivers.
--Images courtesy of Jeremy Rodgers
Benita Hussain is a freelance writer. Her work has appeared in Conde Nast Traveler, GOOD and Women's Adventure, among others. She's also a part-time lawyer and yoga teacher who surfs and climbs and travels to do both. Twitter:@hussainity