GIVE US A BRIEF RUNDOWN OF WHO YOU ARE, WHERE YOU’RE FROM AND WHAT YOU’RE PASSIONATE ABOUT.
My name is Jack Marshall Shimko, and I am a Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor and currently fighting Chronic lymphocytic leukemia / small lymphocytic lymphoma, a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
I was born and raised in Newport Beach, California. I have been in, on and under the ocean since I was a baby. My uncles all sailed, surfed and competed on the Windsurfing World Tour during the 80’s, so much of my life revolved around the ocean and various ocean disciplines. I grew up surfing, skateboarding and making short films about the activities and adventures that my friends and I were having. While maintaining a constant adventurous lifestyle my focus turned to design, creating interactive user experiences and brand storytelling.
That all came to a hard stop when I was diagnosed with Stage 3B Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2009 at the age of 29. I immediately began treatment at UCLA under Dr. Gary Schiller, ultimately undergoing 16 rounds of ABVD chemotherapy across the course of a year, followed by 6 months of radiation treatment and ongoing intensive therapies to regain lung function and reconstruction of my vocal cords.
My relationship with the ocean went on to play a critical role in my recovery from cancer. Immediately following my cancer treatments, I decided to take action and give something back to the cancer community that I took so much from. The ‘Paddle2Live’ Project was born, a 260-mile, ultra-marathon paddle board expedition through all 8 of the Channel Islands, raising over $150,000 for cancer research and support programs and earning the 2012 Surfer Magazine’s “Agent of Change” award.
Now that I am a father to a beautiful daughter Marley May, I wish I had realized going in how much my experience with cancer would continue to affect my life experience beyond treatment. Ongoing challenges with chronic illness, esophagitis, stomach and liver damage, lymphedema, neuropathy, depression, and anxiety remain a part of my life, despite the incredible blessings I have experienced since then. In part because of those challenges, the mission of sharing the healing powers of nature and the ocean with my fellow young adult cancer fighters and survivors has become a defining part of my life's purpose.
YOUR DISCIPLINE (E.G. CLIMBING, SURFING, PADDLING – YOU CAN LIST MULTIPLE)
Surfing, Adventure Paddling (a term coined by the legendary Jack Bark) Sailing & Backpacking
TELL US ABOUT YOUR ORGANIZATION.
I started ‘We Are Ocean’ in 2012 as a stand-alone non-profit and it became a part of the NAC in 2021 as an official program. This year alone, some 87,500 teens and young adults will be diagnosed with cancer. Most will fight back through conventional means, but at NAC / We Are Ocean we take them out of the chemo wards and ferry them deep into ocean-based adventures.
The primary mission of the NAC / We Are Ocean Cancer Program is to provide ocean-based, transformational adventures for teens and young adults (15-39) fighting and surviving cancer. The NAC / We Are Ocean Cancer 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 adventure.
WHAT’S THE NEXT CHALLENGE FOR YOU & WAO?
HEALTH: My current and next challenge is continuing to deal with my cancer and the surrounding issues caused by the experimental treatment that I was on called CG-806. I would also like to find a healthy balance of family, adventure and work.
ADVENTURE: I personally would love to sail through the Channel Islands chain on an L30 boat developed by Rodion Luka with a skeleton crew of pros and cancer fighters while continuing to build We Are Ocean’s newest arm “NAC / WAO Adventures.”
NAC / WAO: My focus is to keep our program alive and thriving and ultimately sustainable one day soon. I also want to develop more NAC / Camp WAO locations in the surrounding Channel Islands and expand to new locations like the North Shore of Oahu and the Gaviota Coast in California. Perhaps even entertain the idea of a floating Camp WAO off the coast on a Mother Ship.
LASTLY, WHAT PIECE OF GEAR DO YOU TEST / USE THE MOST?
This is a hard one because I use and test so many Florence products and all are amazing. But if I must choose, it would be the Parachute Quilted PrimaLoft® Anorak because I wear it almost every day on land, after a cold paddle or on a chilly sail. In the ocean I wear & test the L/S Hooded Rashguard, The Sun Pro L / S Hooded UPF Shirt and the F1 Burgee Cordura® Boardshort the most.
If you or a loved one is battling cancer or in the early stage of survivorship, I would like to invite you to join me and the Newport Aquatic Center in a future week-long cancer support and adventure camp on Catalina Island or a local one-day adventure!