Friday, September 20, 2013

A Story Within A Story

This is one my favorite adventures so far! 

As most of you know I have gotten the kayaking bug bad! After talking to several people about my goal and determination to learn to roll by next spring it was suggested several times for me to get this book...

So I finally decided to get on with what I could and found the book on When I received the book I started flipping through to see what it was all about. I noticed this...
Handwritten on the inside is the name Bradley Kochaniec and a quote "The future is a blank page and you hold the pen."

This is the first used book I have ever gotten that had something written in it. So to say I was curious doesn't begin to describe it. Of course the first thing I do is Google it! There was only one thing came up when I Googled Brad and that unfortunately was his obituary. He died when he was only 19 years old, being that young I knew that there are usually only very few reason someone that age dies, from a tragic event or an illness. 

Now what I did next some people might find a little over the top but there was something about this that I needed to learn about his life. 

His obituary listed the names of his parents. That's where trusty Facebook came into play. I was able to find his mother Carol on Facebook. She actually accepted my friend request and then I sent her this message.

'Good Afternoon Carol,
I hope that this message is not intrusive but I am hoping you might be able to share something with me. I recently got into the sport of white water kayaking. In an effort to further my skills I order the book 'The Bombproof Roll and Beyond' upon receiving it yesterday on the inside cover was a beautiful quote, "The future is a blank page and you hold the pen." Also above that was a name, Bradley Kochaniec. After some research I believe this is your son? I was first like to say how sorry I am for your loss. I was wondering if you might be willing to share a little about him with me? I am a firm believer that things happen for a reason so I am hoping whatever you share with me will help figure out why his name is inside my new book.
Again I hope this isn't to intrusive and I fully understand if you do not wish to share with me. I just wanted to reach out to you.
Thank you for your time and I hope you have a wonderful day!'

Then I patiently waited for her reply hoping that I hadn't severely over stepped my boundaries. Luckily for me a message popped up from her about 3 hours later and that began a fantastic conversation. Carol was so nice and shared openly with me about her son. The book I have belonged to him.

She wrote, "I remember buying him that that book when he first began kayaking. That's my handwriting. He was a great kayaker."

I asked her how old Brad was when he started kayaking. She told me he started when he was in Middle School. After spending lots of time at a rafting outfitter during summers and being invited by older (college age) raft guides to come on their "fun"run with them on river after hours and he became hooked on kayaking. When he became old enough to actually work for the rafting company he went through raft guide training. 

His mom recounted, 'As I recall, spent most of his time in the kayak running safety for the raft trips. This means he was looking out for those that fell out of the raft and making sure the fried chicken didn't get lost before they made it to "lunch rock."'

She also told me, 'Brad got the reputation for being able to read the river and know what the water was going to do and how to safely maneuver the rapids.'

He was starting to get the attention from some of the pros that would be attending events that Brad was involved with. Brad even went so far as to convince an Evolution Kayak salesman to let him take their brand new demo kayak down an 18ft waterfall. He did it agot to take it down Youghiogheny River - Ohiopyle Falls a Class IV. It is Illegal to run except associated with an event or special permit.

He started taking lessons and practicing with Tom McEwan and his team. He began Slalom racing and did well enough that he was in the U.S. Cup and Jr. Olympics in Colorado is 2002!

These photos are from some of his runs during the Jr. Olympics
He graduated and became a freshman at Mount St. Mary's University.
Carol shared, 'At the end of his freshman year, he was going to Mexico and then to Canada with some of the national team members to teach kayaking (they have to earn a living too, lol) and do some serious training with them for the Olympics tryouts in a couple of years.'
It seems Brad also enjoyed teaching. He had some helmets that had large dents in them which he referred to as "Unwanted geological lessons". He took the worst one to any lessons he was teaching so that everyone understood why it was so important to wear them properly. He used to say, " Lots of rocks underwater and you don't want to find them with an unprotected scalp." Seems he had quite the sense of humor.
With the summer planned in Mexico and Canada the scene was set to only bring Brad the next big rapid. However he wouldn't be boat riding on any of those rapids...
"The weekend before finals, Bradley, his girlfriend, and two friends were drinking. Bradley got drunk and passed out. He was laying on his back and vomited. He lived another 14 weeks but with severe brain damage from lack of oxygen. He never would have recovered fully. Brad is buried at Mount St. Mary's Cemetery on the side of the mountain."
While going to school Brad did a lot for the President of Mount St. Mary's. Even now the President still tells Brads story so that the incoming freshmen are more aware of the dangers of alcohol.

Brad's graduating class had his initials put onto the class ring. It was the first time in the schools 200+ years that anyone's initials had been added to a class ring. They gave Carol what would have been Brad's ring.

While paddling down the Potomac River he saved several people from things that could have very welled taken their lives. He even saved someone whose foot was caught over a rock and was drowning in the river. He was a great safety boater, which I can't help but wonder where his safety boater was that night when alcohol played a bigger role in his life then I am sure he thought it would.

I am still not sure this is the whole story as to why his book came to me. Maybe he or someone is trying to tell me that I should pursue kayaking to do what so many cannot.

This is one adventure that I feel like is far from over, it is only the beginning. I am sure in this large or as it turns out small world there is a reason why Brad and his story crossed my path.

The one thing that I keep thinking about is none of this would have happened if this book were available in the digital world such as downloading it through ibooks, kindle, nook, etc. Another reason why the old fashion print shouldn't be so quickly forgotten. But then there is the flip side of without the digital world I would have never found anything about Brad and certainly wouldn't have been able to find his mother. I don't know what the answer is but I am thrilled that this book is now mine.

I want to say thank you to Carol for being willing to share Brad's story with a complete stranger based solely on faith that I meant well. Brad has now certainly touched my life!

I appreciate this experience and even more being able to share with all of you. If anyone would like to share anything about Brad or about this particular book please comment here or feel free to email me



  1. I'm one of Brads friends and his mom considers me the daughter she never had. Thank you for sharing this he was a great person and so inspiring, he is missed dearly by many .Kristina

    1. Kristina thank you so much for your comment! I am glad to be able to share his story & meet new people in the process! Hopefully Brad will help me in my kayaking adventures. :)