Editors Note: Tom is someone we have heard a lot about from local athletes. A charismatic, inspiring outdoor adventurer. Hot yoga doer, winter kayaker (along with other seasons), air seeking mountain biker. With the amount of stoke Tom oozes, he has also had way more than his fair share of health conditions, which he has come back from in full force. We felt it was time to interview Tom so that we and our reader’s could glean some insight from this inspiring athlete.
Question: Tom, please tell us a bit about yourself. Your hobbies, interests, etc.
Answer: My name is Tom Potter, but most people know me as T-Pot! I live in Leavenworth, WA. I enjoy river sports, mountain biking, snowboarding, Bay Area rap music, planning logistically intensive activities, and showing my friends, family, and community a good time.
Question: We heard you like to kayak, specifically in winter. Can you tell us more about places you have kayaked along with your favorite locations to kayak?
Answer: I definitely like to kayak. I wouldn’t say that I specifically like to kayak in the winter. However, when the rivers are always flowing, the water is usually cold, so kayaking in the winter isn’t really that different from most of the year. I do enjoy some warm water paddling though. In fact, I was in Zambia in November of 2019 on a trip to paddle the Zambezi river. It was huge water and 75 degrees. That was definitely in my top three favorite places to paddle, along with Leavenworth and Whistler.
Question: Is there a big difference between winter kayaking compared to other times of the year?
Answer: It tends to be much colder.
Question: How did you get into kayaking? How many years ago was it? What is your skill level now?
Answer: I took an introduction to whitewater kayaking class in the spring of 2009 through Central Washington University. That same year, I also became a river guide for Osprey Rafting in Leavenworth. I spent the whole summer living out of my ‘85 BMW and was on the river in a raft or a kayak almost everyday. That summer, it locked into my psyche that being on the river was something I loved. As I progressed at whitewater kayaking, it became apparent that the kayak is the ultimate river vessel for difficult whitewater. Now the kayak and paddle just feel like extremities. I literally feel more comfortable floating down a frothy river than I do walking across an icy parking lot.
Question: Favorite piece of kayak gear and why.
Answer: A Kokatat Dry Suit. Living in the Northwest, we experience the whole gamut of weather conditions, especially in the mountains, and all that water flowing down our rivers is really effing cold. Kokatat is a paddler-operated company out of Arcata, CA that makes awesome Gore-Tex dry suits. These suits are the tool that allows us to immerse ourselves into the commiting situations that whitewater kayaking places you in. Dry suits made for paddling have built in feet and latex gaskets at the wrists and neck. That way, when you’re paddling, the only parts of your body that get wet are your hands and head. Inside the dry suit, I wear relatively normal athletic wear. Softshell pants, a microgrid synthetic shirt, and some comfy Smartwool socks. Staying dry is crucial to staying warm, so dry suit for the win!
Question: What is the hardest thing you have had to face in your life thus far? How has it changed you?
Answer: I have had three very significant medical challenges in my life that I am extremely fortunate to have walked away from in healthy condition. They are all their own stories, but for the purpose of this interview, I will just nonchalantly list them. When I was 10, a large tree fell on me, and I woke up three days later in Haborview Medical Center with a skull fracture and a broken collarbone and wrist in addition to three broken ribs, four broken vertebrae, a broken right femur and a collapsed lung. When I was 16, I was diagnosed with severe scoliosis that required corrective surgery and the permanent placement of two titanium rods and 26 screws in my spine. Lastly, when I was 27, I was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma and was treated with six months of chemotherapy and a month of radiation. At this point in my life, it takes a lot for me to get worried about a situation. I just try and exercise my best judgement and enjoy the ride!
Question: We also have seen pictures of you mountain biking. When did you get into mountain biking, and what is your favorite spot to ride?
Answer: I’ve been aggressively riding bikes since I was 12. In elementary and middle school, my BMX bike was how I got everywhere. In high school, it pretty much just got me to the skatepark and back home again. When I started hanging out in Leavenworth, I quickly realized the BMX bike wasn’t going to cut it anymore. I’ve been mountain biking ever since. My favorite place to ride is wherever I am. Riding bikes is about creativity. I can easily kill a couple hours in a parking lot.
Question: What is your favorite piece of mountain bike gear and why?
Answer: Neff Brodie sunglasses. They’re like a windshield for your face and come in 20 different colors. I was a big collector of these shades for a while. Then I gave most of them away on a recent paddling trip in Zambia. The locals of Livingstone are looking extra stylish these days.
Question: What sport are you most excited to challenge yourself more on? Or a new sport you would like to try out?
Answer: I have goals and projects within all of my sports or hobbies, whether that be a new river or a new trail or an international adventure. The list is pretty endless. I usually travel with a kayak and a mountain bike so I find myself in situations to try new things all the time. I have always had my eye on the paragliding scene. I’m not ready to commit to indulging in that world yet.
Question: Before mountain bike season, or kayak season, is there anything you do to prepare?
Answer: Not really. I try and stay relatively fit all year long. I just keep moving and try and take every opportunity to get some exercise. I also really enjoy going to Hot Yoga. I’ve noticed massive improvements in my balance, reaction time, recovery time, and overall fluidity of movement after several years of consistent yoga. I highly recommend it.
Question: How often do you work out, and what types of activities do you do other than mountain biking and kayaking?
Answer: I try and engage in some sort of activity everyday. I run, swim, skate ski, do timed bodyweight exercises, etc. I just feel better if I have been moving. However, I also get a similar amount of gratification from organizing the garage or washing my truck. It’s all about balance.
Question: Favorite life quote and why.
Answer: “Life is short. LIVE IT!” I don’t know if any specific person ever said this, but it is how I justify my time expenditure. There is so much to experience in this world and so much to learn about yourself. Find things that test you, scare you, force you to commit fully, and do them. The results will be astounding.
Question: Anything else you would like to tell our readers?
Answer: Enjoy the Wenatchee Valley! This place is seriously badass. There is nothing that you cannot do here, outdoor athletics wise. If you ever need an adventure buddy, feel free to reach out! Tom’s email: firstname.lastname@example.org