It takes a special kind of so-and-so to look at this race, look at a paddle board, and say, “Yep.” Other than a desire to make something hard even harder, a love of simplicity, and a hatred of warm feet, there aren’t a lot of good reasons to SUP the R2AK. Being clear: we’ve heard plenty of reasons (“Maybe Karl Kruger will be my friend” is in the top ten), but damned few have moved the needle on our Worthy-o-meter off of “Meh” for more than a beat or two. Then Team Torrent blew pegged the sucker with a meter busting reason: Brain injury.
Stay with us, it’s worth it.
Josh was career military, not just the guy who walks with a flag in front of parades or guards an airport parking lot in preparation for the battle of Des Moines—Josh was in the frontline in conflicts worldwide, including at least a couple he was never officially in; he was a part of an elite special forces unit that we are apparently not supposed to mention by name but is badass enough to warrant a Chuck Norris movie or two. Josh Collins is the guy Chuck Norris wants to be.
When Chuck Norris goes to bed, he wears Josh Collins pajamas. Josh is literally a roundhouse kick and a handsome beard away from his own library of Chuck Norris-like facts:
- Josh Collins doesn’t cheat death; he wins fair and square.
- Josh Collins can hit you so hard your blood will bleed.
- Josh Collins doesn’t move by paddle board. He stays in one place and his paddle tells the earth which direction to rotate. (Other Chuck Norris facts here)
Chuck Norris aside, the special ops that exist off screen is hardcore for real, and after 7 brain injuries from explosives, parachute landings, and a career of fighting for truth, justice, and the American way, SFC Collins retired in 2008 but stayed in the game as a contractor until 2013 when he sustained two Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) in the same week. Balance issues, spine compression, ear damage, nerve damage, double vision, tremors from early onset of Parkinsons, cognitive decline, stuttering, adult onset ADHD; and memory loss. “I was caught in an endless cycle of anger.” He had a choice: give in or get going on recovery.
These colors don’t run, they paddle.
He departed the surgical and pharmaceutical path to recovery and started paddling to reclaim himself from the legacy of his service. Paddling was a way of rewiring his brain, connecting his motor cortex to the real world. He started paddling his board and he noticed something shift in his world. He didn’t get lost on the way to the gas station any more, he stopped stuttering, started remembering why he was going where he was going. This was working.
Rather than going covert on this op, he decided to put his spotlight on the issue of veteran TBI, and he paddled from Texas to New York City to bring attention to veteran brain injuries and PTSD. Read that again: he paddled from the Lone Star State to the Statue of Liberty to sound the alarm on issues that veterans are forced to deal with after their watch is over. The trip was epic: 2,600 miles, 140 days, 20,000 followers rooting him on. Hooah.
Josh is back in the R2AK after a successful run at Stage 1 in 2017. This time he’s going all the way to raise awareness for the veterans and active service members who are dealing with the accumulated everything that gets swept under the carpet somewhere between the mission and the macho. He’s a big dude, but even to look at this guy you’d never guess he was carrying the hopes and inspiration of a generation of servicemen and women.
Welcome to the R2AK, Team Torrent. We’re a calloused bunch, but we are honored to be a part of your work. If it were ours to give, we’d give you a medal for valor in fighting the battles that follow the war.