My episode first aired on TBS July 31, 2002!
Worst Case Scenario episodes are still airing
on TBS and other channels so keep a look out for me!

Did I tell you about the Worst Case Scenario - Face Off Challenge? I was off to San Diego for a couple of days last weekend to compete in one of the segments (#4 of 22 episodesto be made and aired on TBS starting in July, 2002). The show is produced for Sony Studios and by the same company that does Survivor!

The night before, I met with the producer and director and they asked me if I had any anxieties or concerns about tomorrow's race. I said my only concern was that they might pit me against some young, highly athletic tri-athlete. We all kind'a laughed. (Actually, I also told them I was a little concerned about the possibility of leg cramps, which I sometimes suffer. It turns out that my opponent was the one who got them toward the end of the race!) The next morning I finally met my competition an hour before the race. He was 34 years old and I don't recall ever seeing someone who looked in better physical condition. I doubt he had 2 ounces of body fat, and he had muscles bulging from his arms and legs! We had a chance to chat for a few minutes and he asked how they found me for the race. I told him it was through my web site (kayakdiving.com) as they were looking for someone with lots of kayaking and diving experience. I asked him the same question and he told me that he had just won a triathlon race a few weeks ago and was found through the media coverage of the event. I told him I was an engineer and he said he was a financial consultant. We both knew that there would be plenty of technical challenges as well as physical ones, and it turns out they purposefully picked us from opposite sides of the fence.

The race started, after several false starts for film angles (which already had me quite worn out), and Dave (my opponent) was off like the wind. I never saw anyone run so fast with (or without) 30 pounds of gear on their back. Do I have to tell you that my worst fears were now being realized? By the time we reached the first checkpoint a mile away, he was 1/4 mile ahead of me! But, he overran the turn-off to the first check point, giving me a few seconds to make it up a 110 foot hill before him to the first technical challenge.

This first challenge was to fashion a kayak paddle out of the "junk" they gave us for the first of two kayak sections. At the start, by considering the pile of stuff they gave us, I had already figured out that we would probably be doing this so I had time to work out a very good design. I knew that a good paddle was going to be the winning factor in this part of the race. We had an extendible aluminum pole with a scrub-brush on one end and a foam handle on the other, a plastic kitchen cutting-board, a folding tree-limb saw, and an extension cord (in addition to quite a few other odds and ends). I cut a couple of slots into one end of the cutting board and also used the saw to cut some pieces off my extension cord. With the slots cut into the board I was able to secure it firmly to one end of the pole. I had a good idea for using an aluminum clipboard at the other end, but, by then Dave had come up and quickly lashed his swim fins to either end of his aluminum pole and was on his way back down the hill. No time to complete my design! One good blade on one end and the brush on the other would have to do!

Back down on the beach we climbed up onto an eight-foot high flat rock to find the kayaks. Dave was struggling to find a way to secure his pack. I caught up with him, threw my pack on the deck and ran a hatch strap through it, and threw my kayak off the rock into the water. I was right behind it as I jumped 8 feet into a small pool of water next to it. Dave got the idea and threw his kayak in, nearly right on top of me, and we were off! Well, I was off. My paddle worked great (at least good enough to just get turned into the surf and get some forward speed going), and Dave's hardly worked at all with the flimsy fins barely tied to the pole. I made it out through 4-foot high crashing waves and didn't dare look back to see (as I later learned) that Dave was getting tumbled and pushed back with each attempt. He finally had to resort to swimming his kayak out through the surf. I finished this segment of the course before he made it 1/4 of the way around, all the while I paddled only with the cutting board end of my paddle, switching sides like paddling a canoe. I caught a good ride on a 3-foot wave on the way back in and actually had to do a hard outside brace maneuver with my cutting-board paddle to keep from getting flipped in the surf. I now had a 19-minute lead on him!

The next challenge was to swim a box of matches nearly a 1/4 mile out to a raft, climb up on the raft and light a cauldron. We had to do this and make it back to the beach in a limited amount of time or face the Worst-Case-Scenario. The technical part was keeping the matches dry as we swam out through what was now nearly 5-foot surf. We had a small bottle of racquetballs but I noticed that mine already had water in it! Still, this was my best and only hope so I carefully took the wrapper off a deck of cards and wrapped the matches up in it. I then split open a racquet ball half way and stuffed the matches partway inside it. Next, I gathered a few handfuls of dry leaves and kelp from the beach and crumpled it up into the bottle as a moisture absorbent. I threw in some dry beach sand to boot, and put the ball with matches in. The last thing I did was to tie a piece of my electrical cord around the bottle so I could hold the knot in my teeth in case I needed both hands to make it out through the surf. It turns out that Dave's racquet ball bottle was much more water tight than mine and he didn't take many extra steps to ensure the dryness of his matches. He also had a skin-on wetsuit under which to tuck his bottle and thus carried his bottle underwater the whole way. Meanwhile, I carried my container above the water except when I was hit by two of the largest waves of the day.

I think I swam out to the raft and back just a little faster than Dave did. I guess I am pretty well known for my fin-swimming ability! The long swim actually gave me time to relax a bit and catch my breath. I had no trouble lighting my fire on the second attempt, even after kerosene sloshed out of the cauldron and nearly soaked my matches. I was on my way back to the beach within just a minute, but not before making sure the fire would stay lit.

The second part of the second leg of the race was to kayak (again) around two buoys that took the course out and around the cauldron rafts. Just about the time I was launching my kayak (with a real paddle this time!), Dave had caught up to the first part of the second segment and was making his way out to the raft to light his fire. As I crossed on the outside of the rafts with my kayak I noticed that Dave was having trouble lighting his fire. It seemed to take him about 4 minutes to get it going. I was back on the beach with my kayak before he finished his swim back to shore. I now had a 30-minute lead! I think I can relax a bit now!

The final technical challenge was just too easy (for me anyway; it turns out Dave didn't appear to have a clue how to siphon)! It was a simple matter of siphoning salt-water (simulated fuel) out of a barrel into a water bag and transferring it to a gallon jug. It only took four passes to get the jug filled. Then, there was another long run down the beach and a swim out beyond the surf line to an awaiting jet-ski. This was my first time ever on a jet-ski and it was the most fun part of the race - a simple 5-mile course out beyond one buoy and down the beach and back. We had to re-tie the jet-ski to the buoy, swim back to the beach, and run up through the finish line. I remember jumping off the jet-ski while it was still moving and grabbing the gunwale of the jet-ski and the buoy at the same time to get it hooked up. I believe I finished the entire race about 35-40 minutes ahead of Dave!

Dave turned out to be a real nice guy and was a great sport about the race. I was a little surprised that he started out so strong and ended up at about the same physical and stamina level as I did. I was also flattered and a bit surprised to learn that one of the cameramen who had met both of us before the race had bet $50 on me! Who knows, maybe after my show airs I'll be the next contestant on Survivor! Good thing I have 5 weeks of vacation time saved up!!!