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The Legend

of Badwater

In the pre-mobile phone and pre-Interweb social media epoch, two intrepid adventurers were unknowingly both setting off on two very different epic challenges more than 3500 miles apart, one in Alaska, and one headed for Alaska. Little did they know that they were embarking on a collision course with destiny and that one day - a quarter of a century later - good beer, whiskey, and other drinks - and a remarkable friendship - would be the fortuitous result.

Dry Dirt Road

It was 1997, and thirty-somethings Chris Kostman and Sean Tracy found themselves each geared up and plodding their way across two of the most extreme and inhospitable landscapes on the planet.  Young snowshoe clad Mr. Kostman, a U.C Berkeley grad and cycling phenome with a sub-11-day Race Across America cycling feather in his cap, was setting off on his fourth Iditasport snowshoe ultra in Alaska with distant glimmers and ambitious visions of directing the fledging Badwater 135 Ultra Marathon dancing beneath his frost covered balaclava.  

Chris Kostman
Badwater 135 July 2011


Chris Kostman snowshoe ultra in Alaska
February 1997

Sean Tracy
March 21, 1997

Meanwhile, endurance sport neophyte Sean Tracy, fresh from a tour in the US Navy as a decorated Search & Rescue Swimmer, time as a Student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and subsequent stint as a Flight Instructor & Wildlife Bush Pilot, was saddling up on a beat-up old mountain bike at -282’ below sea level at Badwater Basin in Death Valley. He was bound for Alaska, 3611 miles away, attempting to become the first person to travel under human power from North America’s lowest and hottest point to its highest and coldest, the summit of 20,320’ Denali in Alaska.  Unbeknownst to them both, the Universe had set them on individual trajectories which would one day cause them to collide.  

Sean Tracy summiting Denali in Alaska
June 21, 1997

It was during the restoration of a 1927 wooden Alaskan Salmon fishing boat in 2004 that Tracy met chain-smoking, Kerouacian surfer, shipwright, and soon to be ultra-running vagabond Bradford Lombardi.  Once the boat project was completed, Tracy and Lombardi moved on and it was in 2016 when Tracy, who had recently taken up running marathons to balance the requisite tasting duties at his craft distillery, learned that Lombardi had kicked the coffin nails and was now running ultramarathons.  Lombardi invited Tracy to pace/crew for his 4th running of Kostman’s now iconic Badwater 135 and Tracy jumped at the chance.

Fast forward to 2017.  Kostman had deftly nurtured and grown the previously known Badwater 135 into the most highly regarded and toughest footrace on the planet while Tracy, after his successful Death Valley to Denali Expedition, went on to explore other passions that called to him.  Antique barn home restorations and conversions, craft spirits distilling and brewing, as well as old wooden boat restorations filled his years and soul.

Death Valley

And so it was that in 2017 - twenty years since he had pedaled out of Badwater Basin headed north to Denali - Tracy joined Lombardi’s fourth participation in the Badwater 135.  While there, Kostman and Tracy met briefly at the pre-race briefing, but little did they know that their mutual love of epic adventures and living life fully was about to put them on their own endurance event of sorts that neither had seen coming.  

Sean and Chris.jpg

Sean Tracy pacing Brad Lombardi
Badwater 135 - Death Valley 2017

There at the start of the 2017 Badwater 135, Tracy found himself with Kostman, Lombardi, and the other runners and crews standing at -282’ below sea level in a literal 120F blast furnace.  The heat and his growing thirst began to foment into a vision for Tracy…. Develop a line of Badwater-inspired beverages which Tracy’s Distilling and Brewing biz and Kostman’s endurance lifestyle company AdventureCORPS could share with all Badwater wanderers and likeminded full life livers far and wide.  A phone call between Kostman and Tracy after the race led to the brainstorming that set the Badwater Beverages ball in motion.  

It would prove to be a natural fit considering their respective connections and history with Badwater the place, and Badwater, the way of life. Only slightly overlapping skill sets meant they brought a mountain of opportunity to the table and over time it became clear that their shared love of adventure and entrepreneurship could do big things both within and beyond the endurance sport world. 

So go ahead… drink Badwater and
Find Your Epic.

And so it was that on the eve of Kostman’s Badwater Cape Fear Ultramarathon which Tracy and Lombardi would be running the next morning on March 21, 2022 - perhaps not coincidentally exactly on the 25th anniversary of the start of Tracy’s Death Valley to Denali adventure – Kostman and Tracy each opened a frosty can of freshly brewed Badwater Mequite Smoked Pale Ale, toasted to the past, present and future of Badwater with a shot of Badwater Whiskey, and officially launched their partnership. Their sights are set on bringing a line of epic, distinctive beverages - both alcoholic and non - and the main ingredient is an ethos of exploring ourselves, the world we live in, and doing as much good as possible along the way.

Brad Lombardi, Chris Kostman and Sean Tracy
Badwater Cape Fear Ultra 2022

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