Alaska-based Coast Guardsmen promotes local outdoor sport

 

Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Scalzo, a yeoman for worklife at Base Kodiak, Alaska, takes a snapshot of himself while riding for a cycling club in Portland, Ore., summer 2010. Scalzo has been a life-long cycling enthusiast and is currently bringing his love of cycling to the community of Kodiak. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Scalzo.

Amidst a myriad of folders containing administrative paperwork, is one file filled with a plethora of satellite images and topographical maps. Careful lines, altitude marks, points of interest, distances and other denotations are scribed along the margins of each page.

Michael Scalzo, a yeoman for the work-life branch of Base Kodiak, has marked up these maps while scouting the local area, much like U.S. Military Special Forces scouts for their missions. However, Scalzo is not tracking enemy movements and base camps; he is scouting for the perfect trails and runs hidden in the backwoods of Kodiak Island to blaze through on his mountain bike.

“I’ve been into bikes ever since I was a kid and got my first bike,” said Scalzo. “It was a little GT Performer, and I loved the way it looked in the bike shop. My parents got it for me and I think I caught the bug then.”

Scalzo has been a member for the Coast Guard for just over 10 years and has stated that his love for outdoor extracurricular activities, such as mountain biking, plays a big role when choosing picks for his next duty station in the Coast Guard.

For example, when Scalzo was stationed in Portland, Ore., he found a rich biking community and he became involved with many different biking organizations and race teams.

“I think my hobbies play a big role in where I want to get stationed next, versus the other way around,” said Scalzo. “That was a big reason why I wanted to go to Portland, it’s one of the number one cycling cities in the U.S., I had no idea what I was getting myself into and it was way better than I thought it would be. Now here in Kodiak, after applying to the Parks and Recreation Committee, I get to meet new people and learn all kinds of new trails to go ride.”

Kodiak Island is very much on the polar opposite end of the spectrum of what comes to mind when people think about island life. Yes, Kodiak has sandy beaches, great surf and a plethora of outdoor activities, but unlike places like Honolulu or Key West that stay an average of 80 degrees throughout the year, the rainy and sometimes frigid weather in Kodiak can make participating in these outdoor activities a challenging endeavor, especially for those within the community who do not participate in hunting and fishing.

Because of this, Scalzo has taken the initiative to start forming a group he calls the Emerald Island Bike Club, named after one of Kodiak Island’s pseudonyms, and encourages anyone and everyone interested in mountain biking to join him and ride.

“After being apart of a cycling group in Portland, I really wanted to start my own group here in Kodiak,” Scalzo said. “And not necessarily my own, I just want to get something started for everyone here.”

Scalzo explained that he wants EIBC to be more than just a group. He would like it to become a full-blown non-profit organization incorporating riding jerseys with the club’s logo.

“I gave it the name Emerald Island Bike Club as more of just a way to identify us as a group,” said Scalzo. “It’s open to anyone in the community and the Coast Guard, we just want to develop a network of cyclists that we can inform about rides and get people out there in big groups.”

When it comes to beginners, Scalzo explains that one of the goals he wants to achieve with EIBC is giving people who are new to the sport a solid foundation to learn on.

“One of the things that hooks me about forming the group is that sometimes people can be apprehensive to come out and ride by themselves,” said Scalzo. “And maybe with a little support they can get out there and realize how much fun it is, and how easy it is the more and more they get out there and do it. The camaraderie that you build while you are out there and the friends you make is really something neat.”

For many people, Kodiak Island is a place where entertainment is not readily at hand and sometimes you have to make your own fun, or even force yourself out in the cold to enjoy the beauty that Kodiak has to offer, but for people like Scalzo who channel their lifelong love of fitness into all they do, that form of entertainment comes easy. With a little initiative and knowledge, Kodiak can be a hidden playground waiting for people to come explore the backwoods trails and discover all it has to offer.

For more information about the Emerald Island Bike Club, contact Mike Scalzo at theeibc@gmail.com.

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