Stephan Kesting Just Survived Six Weeks Alone in the Canadian Wilderness Because He’s a Badass.

While the rest of us were busy complaining about the stream quality on Flo, BJJ black belt Stephan Kesting was literally hiking alone in the Canadian Wilderness for six weeks. He recently completed a 1,000 mile solo canoe trip from Canada to the Hudson Bay, coming out of it looking like a totally different human being.

Who is Stephan Kesting?

Kesting is still today one of the most prolific content creators for BJJ online. His website,, is a godsend for newer students looking for video tutorials on BJJ, more than a decade after it was created.

Kesting rose to popularity by being one of the early producers of BJJ Instructionals in the US (although he resides in Canada), he is also the host of the popular “Strenuous Life Podcast.”

While his competition days have long since been behind him, his excellent teaching and easygoing style has made him a favorite among the BJJ community.

He Faced Disaster More Than Once on the Journey

While completely alone, Kesting was able to make periodic updates to his social media and blog. It makes for fascinating reading about an epic journey that was anything but smooth. Longtime fans of combat sports will remember than Evan Tanner, former UFC Middleweight Champion, was killed in a similar wilderness retreat in 2008. Kesting showed true black belt grit and ingenuity, facing obstacles such as:

  • Having rain leak into his “waterproof” map case, soaking and nearly destroying all of his maps
  • Having his solar powered gear fail due to lack of sunlight
  • Being ran out of a camp by a blackbear.
  • Breaking his main canoe paddles just a week into his trip
  • Being forced to drag his canoe through undergrowth for three hours, only to move a single kilometer.
  • Paddling on his canoe for up to thirteen hours in a single day
  • Literally racing a wildfire before it cut off a key part of his route
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7:18 am and on the water. Conditions on Nueltin have been pretty much idyllic other than the occasional thunderstorm. No massive waves, never-ending headwinds or storms yet, all of which are a certainty on these giant northern lakes if you just wait long enough. So how many hours should you spend paddling when conditions are good? All of them. Itʼs beginning to take its toll though. Iʼm beginning to do stuff like paddle with my eyes closed while counting to ten, then opening them briefly to make sure Iʼm still going in the right direction, and then closing them again. Also today I started feeling a burning pain in my left shoulder blade that was frighteningly reminiscent of the pain I felt when I pinched a nerve preparing for the ADCC trials a decade ago. I hope that this doesnʼt go any further. Finally my pace on Nueltin has slowed down these last 3 days, breaks are getting more frequent, and the reasons for breaks are getting more ridiculous. “Maybe I just should re-re- recheck that map… Maybe I should reapply sunscreen, for the third time this hour… Etc.” Overall though my physical body has actually held up pretty well on this trip, given that I started it with an injured shoulder, elbow and hip (which is why most of my preparation for this trip was cardio, not actual upper body training). Shockingly all of those injuries have gotten better, much better. Seems like all you need to do for physiotherapy is to do 20 to 30,000 paddle strokes a day, every day, without a break. Seems applicable to the population at large 😉 Ultimately Iʼm putting in the time. You can have all the high tech boats, bent shaft carbon fiber paddles, and fancy folding sails you want, but ultimately itʼs having your ass in the seat that gets you down the lake. Itʼs just like study time for getting your degree, or mat time for mastering BJJ. Time in activity matters. #paddlingonnueltinbeforejoc ko #iwillownthathashtag #nueltinlake #wildernesscanoeing #1000milesolo

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I have one mission: get down the river as fast as I can without dying.

Stephan Kesting

Along the way, Kesting updated his blog with more than just the stresses of travel. He reflected on his life in ways he rarely has, giving readers a glimpse into his personal life. He spoke openly about his children, a tough divorce, financial challenges, and his kidney transplant in 2010.

It was a different kind of performance, but no less impressive as any feat on the mats. Stephan Kesting endured something few humans would try nowadays. For that, he has our hespect.

You can read the full (lengthy) accounting of his journey here.

Louis Martin

Louie is a full time writer and content management guy. He owns the site, and has written for JiuJitsuTimes, YouJiuJitsu, BJJFAQ, and GrapplingInsider. He also published "The True Believers", a book about cults in martial arts. He trains under Elliot Kelly, but loves to rep his 10th Planet roots.

Louis Martin has 36 posts and counting. See all posts by Louis Martin