Wild West

A window into the movers and shakers of the natural places where we love to play. Hosted by San Francisco Chronicle Travel Editor Greg Thomas, the show features in-depth interviews with world-class professional athletes pushing the bounds of human achievement, as well as the influencers and advocates shaping our ideas about the outdoors.

Places & Travel
Pro Skier Hazel Birnbaum on Retiring at 33
Lake Tahoe skier Hazel Birnbaum has traveled the globe on the freeskiing circuit for most of a decade, but this winter decided to officially retire from the sport. What does that look like for a 33-year-old?
35 min
Rock Climber Pete Whittaker on the Magic of Suf...
Pete Whittaker stops by to talk about his unique approach to rock climbing, why he loves suffering and his new book, Crack Climbing, out in January.
42 min
Lake Tahoe’s First Private Ski Area
White Wolf would be Northern California's first private ski area -- like a gated community for skiing in Lake Tahoe. Owner Troy Caldwell sits down to run through how the whole thing would work and how his project represents the future of skiing in Lake Tahoe.
24 min
Big-Wave Surfer Grant Washburn
San Francisco surfer Grant Washburn comes on to talk surfing culture in the city. We cover the uncertainty around the future of the famous Mavericks surfing contest, the closing of SF's 50-year-old surfing shop Wise, and the emergence of the City Surf Project.
30 min
California's Secret BASE Jumpers
BASE jumper Daniel Ristow is on a mission to pioneer legal BASE jumping spots in California's Sierra Nevada mountains. We discuss the state's secretive base community, Daniel's first jump and much more.
35 min
Corey Rich on Photography, Yosemite Climbing an...
Adventure photographer Corey Rich stopped by to talk about shooting rock climbers on El Capitan, South Lake Tahoe's exciting future, and his new book, "Stories Behind the Images."
45 min
A Year Alone at Sea with Sailor Randall Reeves
Randall Reeves has been at sea for 12 months and counting and is days away from completing a solo circumnavigation of Antarctica and the Americas. He traveled the Northwest Passage, the fierce Southern Ocean and contended with gales and icebergs. We talk challenges of the trip and Randall’s next challenge of reintegrating into society.
36 min
Swimming in Garbage with Ben Lecomte
Ocean swimmer Ben Lecomte recently swam from Hawaii to San Francisco, making sure to pass through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. What he found is pretty depressing: plastic trash everywhere. We talk about what he saw, what he learned, and how he psyched himself up each morning to hop back into an ocean of trash.
38 min
The Future of California's Coast
Economist Jason Scorse runs the Center for the Blue Economy, a think tank dedicated to finding a healthy, sustainable equilibrium between society and the ocean. We cover the outlook for living on the coast, commercial fishing and other fun, thorny subjects.
32 min
Ski-Mountaineer Kit DesLauriers on Mindfulness,...
As the first person to ski off the world's highest peaks on all 7 continents, Kit DesLauriers has explored some of Earth's wildest places. We talk about finding freedom in the mountains, exploration in the 21st century, and her efforts to preserve a wildlife refuge in Alaska.
39 min
Creating Offshore Island-States with Patri Frie...
Patri Friedman is the founder of the Seasteading Institute in San Francisco and the festival called Ephemerisle in the Sacramento River Delta. He consults with countries around the world that want to create new experimental governments at sea.
39 min
Should We Drain Hetch Hetchy?
A new report says the valley beneath Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite would be worth $100 billion if we were to drain the reservoir and let the valley return to its natural state. Chronicle reporter Kurtis Alexander and I chop up the pros, cons and feasibility of the idea, which has been percolating for more than a century.
31 min
Big-Wave Surfer Mark "Doc" Renneker
San Francisco surfing legend Doc Renneker doesn't mince words when giving his opinions on surfing culture. Surf memoirs? Cliche. Surfing in the Olympics? "Oh, God no!" We talk surfing literature and movies, the Mavericks big-wave contest, and how surfing is like jazz music.
36 min
Photographer Chris Burkard on Exploring Iceland...
Chris Burkard got his start as a surfing photographer and has parlayed that into a full-blown media brand. We talk about his love of Iceland, his fraught relationship with Instagram, and how he came to own and love a pair of pet alpacas.
35 min
Debunking Fitness Myths with Scott Johnston & S...
Pro climber and mountain guide Steve House and Olympic ski coach Scott Johnston cut through the B.S. of all the fitness fads out there and talk about the bad and good of our cultural obsession with exercise.
53 min
Climbing Everest with Roxanne Vogel
Vogel is the nutrition and performance research director at Gu Energy Labs and recently completed a rapid ascent of Mount Everest. We cover the how she prepared to take on the world's highest mountain, what lucky charms she brought with her, and why Everest gets a bad rap.
45 min
Wolf Therapy with Teo Alfero
Alfero is the founder of Wolf Connection, a wolf sanctuary in the mountains above L.A. where he offers "wolf therapy" to troubled teens, Hollywood big wigs, and anyone else looking to open their minds to the ancient bond between humans and wolves.
34 min
Raising Alex Honnold with Dierdre Wolownick
Dierdre Wolownick's new memoir, "The Sharp End of Life," chronicles her life as the mother of world-class rock climber Alex Honnold as well as her journey to overcome fear and push her personal limits by learning to climb herself. At age 66, she became the oldest woman to climb El Capitan, the 3,000-foot wall in Yosemite Valley.
41 min
Filmmaker Pablo Durana on Shooting Documentaries
When he's not filming the world's top adventure athletes in action, Pablo Durana is shooting documentaries around the world, from Greenland to Chile. We discuss shooting in extreme environments, his award-winning films, and his latest passion project.
39 min
The Future of Skiing with Author Porter Fox
With climate change threatening to make our winters shorter and warmer, writer Porter Fox looks to ski areas around California to understand how higher temperatures are already changing how resorts operate.
32 min
The North Face's Matt Sharkey on Managing Pro A...
Matt Sharkey is the global sports marketing director for The North Face, which means he helps decide who gets on the company's roster of sponsored athletes, what is expected of them, and how to expand the company brand.
33 min
Rue Mapp of Outdoor Afro on Diversity in the Ou...
Rue Mapp is the founder and CEO of Oakland's Outdoor Afro, a group that encourages people of color to get out and explore the outdoors. It's not as simple a task as you might expect.
38 min
Conrad Anker on Climbing Everest, Mentorship, a...
Mountaineer Conrad Anker has summited Everest several times, set first ascents on peaks around the world, mentored Alex Honnold, and been a pro mountaineer for more than 30 years.
28 min
Tahoe Snow Forecaster Bryan Allegretto of OpenSnow
As a pre-eminent winter weather forecaster for OpenSnow, Bryan Allegretto knows more about how snowstorms hit Lake Tahoe than anyone. We talk Tahoe snowfall, the best places to ski, and more.
50 min
Shark Diver Ron Elliott & Filmmaker Josh Berry
Ron Elliott has had more encounters with great white sharks that perhaps anyone on the planet -- and he was recently attacked by one while filming sharks off the coast of San Francisco.
36 min
Cody Townsend on 'The Fifty' Project and Life a...
Pro skier Cody Townsend reflects on his career so far, his conflicted thoughts on social media, performing "marketing turns," and his latest project to ski 50 iconic lines across North America.
63 min
Dean Karnazes on Recovery, Aging, and Running i...
The ultramarathon pioneer and best-selling author talks about getting older, how the sport of ultrarunning has grown and changed, and his big project to run in every country on Earth.
51 min
Bianca Valenti On Fighting For Pay Equity In Pr...
San Francisco big-wave surfer Bianca Valenti on being the only woman in the lineup, surfing 50-foot waves, and fighting for pay equity in professional surfing.
48 min
Climber/Filmmaker Cedar Wright on Filming in An...
Cedar Wright's new film, "Queen Maud Land," follows a group of elite climbers, including Alex Honnold and Jimmy Chin, as they scale unclimbed peaks in Antarctica in sub-zero temperatures.
56 min
Marathon Rower Lia Ditton On Training For 5 Mon...
Rower Lia Ditton is preparing for a 5-month solo voyage across the Pacific, from Japan to San Francisco, in her tiny rowboat. We talk about how she's training her mind and body and what she'll do to stave off boredom.
60 min
Jeremy Jones On Disappearing Winters And His Ne...
Big-mountain snowboarder Jeremy Jones talks about how naturalist John Muir inspired his new documentary, 'Ode to Muir,' and what's at stake if we let climate change go unchecked.
42 min
Everest Guide Adrian Ballinger & Climber Emily ...
Power couple Ballinger and Harrington talk about "lightning ascents" on Everest, the importance of athletes being politically active on social media, and much more.
62 min
Alex Honnold + Filmmakers Behind 'Free Solo' do...
Alex Honnold, Jimmy Chin, Chai Vasarhelyi and Sanni McCandless answer audience questions about the making of the new documentary film 'Free Solo' at a late-night screening of the film in San Francisco.
22 min
Alex Honnold on filming 'Free Solo' and pushing...
Free soloist rock climber Alex Honnold talks about the challenges of filming 'Free Solo,' the documentary of his epic solo of El Capitan in Yosemite, as well as #vanlife, the inherent danger of rockfall in Yosemite, and the future of free soloing.
51 min
What's Next for Martins Beach? With Surfrider C...
The US Supreme Court this week declined to take up the case of tech billionaire Vinod Khosla's attempt to privatize a popular beach near Half Moon Bay, California. But the fight isn't over.
41 min
Kim Chambers on swimming with sharks
Open water swimmer Kim Chambers talks us through her famous swim between the Golden Gate Bridge and the Farallon Islands, 32 miles off the coast of California.
51 min
Rock climber Kevin Jorgeson on 'The Dawn Wall' ...
Yosemite climber Kevin Jorgeson talks about pulling off one of the most difficult climbs in the history of the sport, which is captured in the highly anticipated documentary "The Dawn Wall", hitting theaters this month.
29 min