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Former Navy SEAL Kaj Larsen paddle boards supplies to and from yacht for CA wildfire victims

Kaj Larsen (Courtesy of Kaj Larsen)
December 11, 2018

Former Navy SEAL Kaj Larsen recently found himself helping his community that was affected by the California wildfires last month. But this was no ordinary volunteer mission.

“Just on Veterans Day, I had posted on social media about how it’s important for veterans to continue to serve and work in their communities,” Larsen recently told American Military News.

That’s exactly what he ended up doing when he and his friend who owns a yacht decided to help those affected by the Woolsey Fire in California, staging a maritime mission to paddle board people from sea to shore to check on their homes, as well as paddle board supplies and relief for those who were working to put the fires out.

For Larsen, it was a straightforward mission that was simply the right thing to do.

Larsen grew up in Santa Cruz, Calif., and went to the Naval Academy when he was 17 years old. He hadn’t really heard about Navy SEALs until then, but he immediately knew the SEAL community was what he wanted to embrace.

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This was pre-9/11. Larsen was in the first phase of SEAL training when the terrorist attacks in New York City, Pennsylvania and Virginia took place in 2001.

“It changed the character and constitution of the team,” he said. “We transitioned to a wartime community.”

He deployed as a SEAL commander with SEAL Team 1, and was active duty for five and a half years before he transitioned to the SEAL Reserves and went to graduate school. He continued serving for seven years, including multiple combat deployments.

On Veterans Day evening this year, he was out with a friend who owns a yacht in Malibu, and his friend asked for Larsen’s help in aiding another friend who wanted to go back to his home to protect it and check on its status amid the Woolsey Fire that was raging.

“They weren’t allowing anyone access. The only way to get there was maritime, by the ocean,” Larsen explained. “Jeff asked if I would be willing to help this guy get back to his house.”

“The last thing I wanted to do on a Sunday night was take a boat into the cold dark ocean where there were raging fires and tons of smoke,” Larsen said. “Everybody wants to be a frogman on a sunny day.”

That thought was fleeting, and Larsen immediately said yes, let’s do it.

Larsen ultimately ended up staging an impromptu fire relief mission, as We Are The Mighty pointed out.

The yacht got as close as it could to the shore, and Larsen would then paddle board back and forth, taking in supplies and equipment, as well as oxygen for First Responders, and additionally taking people back and forth.

He ended up helping at least 12 to 15 homeowners, making 30 trips back and forth through the wee hours of the morning.

“And that was that,” Larsen humbly said. “For me, doing a very simple over-the-beach mission is not a big deal. We’ve done this a million times in SEAL team. I’m a big wave surfer, so paddling people in and out is very easy. I don’t want to make more of it.”

However, it was evident that people were incredibly grateful for any little bit of help and peace of mind they could have, he said.

The impromptu mission was a combination of two things he really cares about, Larsen added: “Someone using their privilege for good, and service members repurposing their skills for good.”