Thompson Rivers University

Adventure grad puts the challenge in Eco-Challenge

  Posted on: April 5, 2019

From TRU to the job of a lifetime. Adventure studies grad Kevin Hodder gets paid to travel to remote and exotic locations, and create challenges that might just take down teams of determined outdoor athletes.

Hodder has a key role in designing this year’s Eco-Challenge in Fiji from September 10 to 21—a physically and mentally challenging multi-day, team race that’s back after a 17-year hiatus.

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Kevin Hodder scouts another location.

What is Eco-Challenge?

In the race, teams of four adventure athletes consisting of both genders go non-stop, 24 hours a day as they race through picturesque and remote locations.

They navigate mountains, volcanic cliffs, narrow gorges, river crossings, white water, oceans and dense jungles by mountain bike, kayak, climbing and other means. At stake is $100,000 cash for first place, $50,000 for second and $25,000 for third. If one team member quits, the entire team is out.

The race tests courage, stamina, strength and friendships.

“I think we’ve put together the most challenging race course in the event’s history,” said Hodder, Eco-Challenge race manager. He was involved with the race’s safety and logistics from 1996 until it discontinued in 2002.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if only half of the 70 teams complete it.”

Hodder’s Eco-Challenge experience helped lead him to producing sporting events and competitions full-time for television. He’s worked on Survivor (CBS), Million Dollar Mile (CBS), Treasure Hunters (NBC), The Contender (NBC), 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Amazing Race (CBS), Love in the Wild (NBC), Get Out Alive with Bear Grylls (NBC) and Big Brother (CBS).

His start with Eco-Challenge

“When the Eco-Challenge came to BC in 1996, I was offered a job as a mountain safety guide for one of the camera crews. It was only about three weeks of work at the time, but it got my foot in the door and led to several great opportunities,” Hodder said. “Mark Burnett, the founder of Eco-Challenge, offered me the position of race co-ordinator the following year in Australia. I ended up working for him for over a decade from that point forward. It was a classic example of the small door opening into the big room.”

Adventure program teaches foundation skills

“Since I’m no longer guiding in the traditional sense, people ask how often I use the skills I learned at TRU. My answer? Every day. I am consistently required to manage risks, design logistics, write operations plans, work around helicopters, manage people, etc. Those are all things I learned about in the program.”

Other grads working Eco-Challenge

Along with Hodder, TRU grads Phil Gautier, Christy Long, Mat Valade and Brian Finestone are also working on the Fiji race. Another alum, LJ Wilson, worked Eco-Challenge with Hodder from 1999-2002.