After taking a summer class to earn his Highschool diploma after graduation, he was able to join the Navy. It wasn’t long before he found himself at the top of his class in Navy technical schools. This is when he realized that learning wasn't just about the content that was being taught, but how the content was delivered that could make a real difference in a student's success. He started leading study groups to help other Sailors to pass classes and was labeled as “The Question Petty Officer” in his class. Ya know, “that guy” not afraid to ask a question at the end of class and just won't let it go. He often frustrated his instructors with his insistent questions for more understanding to the point of being asked to leave due to perceived disrespect. Despite the social pressure, that has not changed. What has changed is his level of understanding in so many areas. One area, in particular, is adult learning and instructional techniques. Once he started learning about how people learn, his level of understanding of why he was labeled with a learning disability in school increased his empathy for people trying to learn. This empathy spilled into his leadership style and drove his success in the Navy.
“I was once asked what my definition of Mastery was. My answer is, Mastery is not an achievement, it is the extended journey of learning. If you think you have mastered something, you will stop learning. I hope to never achieve Mastery”
Since retiring in 2014 from the Navy as a Master Training Specialist (ironic, isn't it), Brent continued his learning and teaching in the outdoor industry in activities he loved. Whitewater rafting and swiftwater rescue were the primary disciplines for several years. Emerald-colored pools, water-carved rocks, and bone-chilling whitewater was his childhood environment playing in the waters of the North Fork Santiam river. He pursued his passion for ropework by taking a Technical Rope Rescue Comprehensive class, an ICOpro Canyoning course, and achieving his AMGA Single Pitch Instructor cert all within one year.
“If I had a rope, I made a swing. If it held air, I ran whitewater on it, If it had wheels, I ripped it down a hill”
Brent reached out to Ryan after seeing a few videos he did with Rachel Saker in caving. Ryan made a comment about branching out into other rope disciplines and Brent saw that as an opportunity to get some of his questions answered about canyon rigging. Brent emailed Ryan introducing him to the sport and offered a few ideas for testing canyon systems. Ryan quickly responded “sounds great! What is canyoning?”
Canyoneering is predominantly known in the US as something you do in the Southwest desert. Interestingly enough, it started in Europe at about the same time. The primary difference in Europe the canyons had moving water and was referred to as canyoning. Canyoning is rather a new activity in the Pacific Northwest and is rapidly growing. It is closer to the environment found in European canyons that require different skill sets than SW canyons in the US.
Ryan called Brent to ask about his motivation and what he expected from HowNOT2. Brent's response was “I just want people to be educated and be safe. Not that kind of safe 😏, just not get injured and be able to enjoy this activity for a long time. I’d rather not do another recovery”. Since working as a swiftwater rescue instructor, knowing the hazards involved with moving water and seeing the potential growth in canyoning, he took the opportunity to increase canyon awareness via HN2. His goal for new, and experienced canyoners is to enjoy PNW canyons without incident.
Brent is a rescue member of Olympic Mountain Rescue and is exposed to a lot of situations that could have been avoided by having a little knowledge and understanding of the environment in which people choose to recreate.
Ryan's first trip to Washington to meet Brent was interesting, to say the least. Brent picked Ryan up at the airport and brought him back to his house. After seeing “the gear room”, the practice anchors upstairs (pre canyon wall), and the several papers Brent had written (that nobody saw) he said, “dude, you need an outlet”. The ideas and creation started from that point. The next morning Ryan had drafted out the rebranding of HN2 and the discussion of this new website started. They filmed several episodes, some planned some not, in just four days.
Between filming locations, Brent took him on his first lunch date with Andrea in Seattle. Not only did Ryan get wet in his first canyon experience, but he won the girlfriend lottery. Brent and Andrea still debate on who was the third wheel on that date.
Brent’s first trip to the HN2 Lab was rather productive. While packing for the trip, Brent gets a call from Ryan asking about VT Prusiks. That conversation resulted in on-the-spot filming of the VT Prusik video which was Brent’s real introduction to the HN2 community. This was also his first introduction to Bobby and his first taste of "breaking gear fear." Ryan left the two in the lab for a day and they did more testing than Ryan knew what to do with. I'm sure the results will make it in a video someday. 😂
The Canyon Ropes Systems was a written project and became the first coursette on HN2. The course is a culmination of projects, articles and thoughts Brent has been working on for a couple of years that were just sitting on his Google Drive. It has been a process culminating to the new website blogs for HN2 videos.
“I often find myself holding on to ideas and projects looking for perfection. Perfection rarely comes with the most creative ideas and waiting for perfection stunts growth and further learning. Working with Ryan and HN2 has helped me overcome the anxiety of putting out something less than perfect by seeing the value new information has for a lot of people. The positive feedback from the HN2 community has been amazing. Thank You.”