By Carol Brzozowski
City & Shore PRIME
At 64, Hollywood resident Ross Elder says he feels like he’s living on borrowed time.
“I can’t believe I made it this far, cheating death so many times,” Elder says. “The best adventures are the ones you live to talk about.”
At 55, Elder was overweight with bad knees that stopped him from running. Medical tests revealed potential male breast cancer and two spots on his lungs. After his medical scares were cleared, he took up paddle sports.
Elder has paddled and raced many Florida rivers, enjoyed kayak camping excursions, and belongs to various paddle clubs.
His latest adventure: paddling 135 miles in two weeks from Nome to Wales, Alaska, as part of Freya Hoffmeister’s 10-year, 30,000-mile circumnavigation of North America.
“It was an unexpected awakening of the true last frontier paddling with the most extreme ultra kayaker in the world, way above my skill level,” says Elder, who nonetheless pushed through many challenges.
Born in Toronto, Elder is a third-generation outdoor enthusiast whose father was a canoe guide and grandfather an outfitter on Ontario’s French River. He was named for an uncle who died in a canoe accident. Elder raised three daughters, a son and does artistic glass and metal work.
Elder has paddled kayaks, canoes, outrigger canoes, dragon boats and surf skis and owns 12 boats.
He’s raced in Key West, the Loxahatchee River, the Ocean Regatta in Cape Canaveral, the U.S. Canoe Association Aluminum Nationals, the Palm Beach Paddlefest and the Suwanee River 230-mile Ultimate Challenge.
Elder has helped run the Sunshine State Games, an Olympic-style program for amateur athletes. In 2015, he competed in his kayak.
In 2017, Elder was on the USA National Dragon Boat team and raced for the world championship in China, winning three bronze medals. Originating in China 2,000 years ago, a dragon boat is paddled like a canoe by 10 or 20 people. It’s often decorated with Chinese dragon heads and tails during competition.
For charity, Elder has participated in Crossing for a Cure, an 80-mile championship race between the Bahamas and Florida to benefit those with cystic fibrosis. He also has done the Wild Hog Canoe Race on Florida’s Waccasassa River, benefitting the Levy Association for Retarded Citizens.
Elder shares his passion for paddling as an ACA instructor and a Florida Paddlesports Program volunteer guide. He belongs to the Lanakila Iki Outrigger Canoe Club, a local non-profit organization raising awareness of the Polynesian outrigger sport through fitness and charity.
“I love promoting paddle sports and helping people get on the water, whether for pleasure or racing,” Elder says. “As the new American Canoe Association Florida competition director, I’ll be able to help paddle sports grow even more.”
PHOTO: Ross Elder (Courtesy)