Fighting Cancer Through Adventure
By: Jack Marshall Shimko

Cancer and adventure are not typically used in the same sentence. However, I speak those two words and live them both every day of my life. For me adventure is something that cancer can’t take away. It will try and try but I will find a path to get out there and continue to adventure no matter what cancer throws at me.

My name is Jack Marshall Shimko, and I am a longtime endurance paddler, ocean enthusiast, cancer survivor and I am currently fighting cancer again. I am also the founder of We Are Ocean.

The primary mission of Newport Aquatic Center’s “We Are Ocean” cancer program is to provide ocean-based, transformational adventures for teens and young adults (15-39) fighting and surviving cancer. The program focuses on bringing intimate groups of cancer fighters and survivors together in coastal wilderness environments while providing opportunities for connection, self-discovery, empowerment, support, and most importantly—adventure.

Jack Shimko and We Are Ocean Cancer Survivors paddling the Catalina Channel

The Puakea Designs Wild Buffalo Relay 2024
In a continued effort to throw cancer overboard and sink it to the ocean’s floor, I was fortunate enough to co-lead a team of cancer fighters in the 32-mile Wild Buffalo Relay from Catalina Island to the Newport Aquatic Center last April. Team NAC / WAO was comprised of cancer fighters along with accomplished NAC support paddlers and first responders, active-duty military and veterans from the amazing OpenWater organization.

This adventure was full of challenges; selecting the team, training together, finding the right support boats, figuring out the logistics for 19 people and the list goes on...None of this would have been possible without the support and guidance of Billy Whitford and Kel Thompson. Billy is the NAC Executive Director and Kel is the NAC Manager and Wild Buffalo Race Director.

Jack Shimko and We Are Ocean Cancer Survivors paddling the Catalina Channel

Field Notes
(33.3428° N, 118.3282° W - 33.6189° N, 117.9298° W)
Conditions were rough on the ferry over to the Island and the team was feeling a mixture of excitement, anticipation, nausea and uncertainty. Conditions cleaned up the morning of the race and our team launched at 8am sharp in favorable winds and a chilly 48-degree sea surface temp. Due to cold ocean temps all teams did “dry changes” every 30 minutes. This strategy proved successful by providing ample time to rest, hydrate and put on the cheerleading hat for our fellow team members while it was their turn to paddle. 13 dry changes later we crossed the finish line in 5 hours and 46 minutes, beating our previous personal record of 5:58 set in 2023. Our team gear worked great, especially the Off Grid Fleece Half Zip which provided much needed warmth but also its athletic fit allows you to paddle comfortably in it.

Not only did we achieve our goal of completing the Wild Buffalo for a second year in a row, but we also showed cancer that we are done sitting on the sidelines and it can’t take away our spirit of adventure.

Learn More about We Are Ocean.

Donate to We Are Ocean.

Florence Gear Used by Jack Shimko and We Are Ocean Cancer Survivors paddling the Catalina Channel

Team Gear Tested
Airtex Long Sleeve Shirt
F1 Burgee Cordura® Boardshort
Off Grid Fleece Half Zip

*Florence Test Pilots Kane Cassidy & Jack Marshall Shimko also tested the:
Pertex Quantum Puffer
Long Sleeve Hooded Rashguard

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