"He was always there." ZOZI Gurus share inspiration from their fathers
ZOZI Gurus Dean Karnazes, Chris Lieto, and Jonny Moseley have competed in some seriously challenging events—the 135-mile Badwater race through Death Valley, numerous Ironman triathlons, and the Olympics and X Games, respectively. And all along, in desert heat and freezing temperatures, their dads were there to cheer them on. Here, these three elite athletes share the inspiration they received from their fathers—and the support they now offer their own kids.
Ultramarathon Man Dean Karnazes takes his mom and dad everywhere he goes. “I have so many people I’ve heard say, ‘My father passed away, or my mother passed away. I loved them. The only regret I had is that I didn't spend enough time with them.’ And I’m resolved to never allow that to happen.”
But when it comes to who’s taught him more during those travels, his dad takes the cake.
“Traveling with my mom is super easy. Traveling with my dad is a lot of work. I'm an introvert and so is my mom. My dad is like the biggest extrovert imaginable." Take him on a road trip, Karnazes says, and he’ll talk for three hours. “They'll be the same stories over and over. And I love the man. I don't want to say, ‘Dad, give it a rest.’ I’ve learned to love my Bose noise-cancelling headphones,” Karnazes says, laughing, and then adds, “I'm not kidding.”
Of course, he adds, it’s easy to make fun of his father for one very specific reason.
“He’s always been there for me," says Karnazes. "I think that's how he's inspired me. He’s always there. Whether I liked it or not, he went to every single sports event I was in as a kid. He attended everything I was doing.”
Which as a kid, isn’t necessarily what you think you want. “Sometimes you're like, ‘Oh god, my dad's here again.’ But when I look back on it, I could say that because my dad was there versus another kid whose dad was never there. And I just really admire that in him.”
If push comes to shove, he appreciates his father’s extroverted nature as well. “I do a lot of public speaking," explains Karnazes. "I’ve learned how to turn on my ‘inner dad,’ if you will. Kind of be charismatic and gregarious, and chit-chat—which I hate to do—and get through it.” And then, as you might expect from the Ultramarathon Man, “go for a run to de-stress.”
Growing up, Olympic skier Jonny Moseley could always find his dad in his workshop. “Often, he would be building a trailer or a bunk for the back of the truck, so he could haul us to the next ski or sailing event,” says Moseley.
“This is how we explored. If we were interested and passionate about something, he was there to make it happen,” he says. “Competitive skiing and sailing helped all of us see the country and eventually the world. I hope to follow my boys' interests as well.”
Moseley says that getting his dad peeled off alone is nearly impossible. “He mainly likes to hang out with all of us at the same time,” he says. Today, the two still connect in his dad’s workshop. “I often drop in on him while he is working on a project and help out. This is when we really get to talk,” he says. “Even if I just hang out there with my feet up on the workbench while he wrenches away, we are good.”
“Even when my dad is on ‘vacation’ he works on stuff,” he says. “I tried back in the day to do more traditional type things with my dad but I realized it was not our thing. Once I accepted that he is happiest working on a project and does not wish to be lounging, it made our time easier.”
Moseley’s advice for others: “There is no need to make father-son time fit into a traditional form. Slide into whatever makes dad the most relaxed and hang out there. Don’t wait to make some epic father-son excursion. Find fifteen minutes to drop in on him.”
When Ironman champion Chris Lieto thinks about travel with his father, his memories jog back to a young age—of canoeing and camping together on junior high church trips. The sense of excitement and connection that he experienced back then directly influences Lieto’s relationship with his son today.
“I have adventures and trips that I’ve done with my whole family. But my son and I have certain things planned that we want to do. They're all about adventure. And for him, at age 11, it's about trying to do things that will challenge him. Things that he will remember. Things that will bond us. Things that will give us an opportunity to talk or experiences that will get him closer to manhood.”
Whether hunting or camping or surfing—all activities the two currently enjoy together—Lieto says there are two keys to traveling with your father or as a father.
First, find and participate in activities that you are both passionate about and want to experience.
Second—which Lieto says he’s still learning how to do—allow the other person to have more of the experience. If he and his son go on a surfing trip, they both want to tackle amazing waves, he explains. But “amazing” to Lieto may be a little bit bigger and a little bit more challenging than what his son is capable of right now.
Lieto could set his own agenda, and ride the waves that are good for him, but that will only frustrate his son. Instead, Lieto says, he wants to spend most of the time in a situation where his son will get an experience that he'll remember and that will bond them closer.
“I think we have to humble ourselves to say it’s more about the other person," says Lieto. "When you have a trip that's more about the other person, you're going to have more fulfillment, more excitement, and better memories. By you giving to your son or your father in that experience, you'll end up getting the reward even more so.”
It’s an inspirational way of going about travel, and life, and Lieto admits he hopes it is impacting his son.
“I think I inspire him in different areas at different times," he says. "Early on in his life, when I was racing professionally, and traveling and training full time, I would catch him outside running laps around the house. Or wanting to ride his bike and putting on his helmet and pretending he was doing a race. I inspired him to be active. I inspired him to want to do triathlons. Now that we live in Hawaii, he wants to surf.”
Of course, Lieto’s son is getting older, and his perspectives are shifting. “He could care less that I was one of the fittest athletes in the entire world. He just sees me as his dad,” Lieto says with a laugh. “And a professional surfer that's a friend of mine that lives in the area—if he's around, my son's, like, ‘Oh my gosh. I can't believe it's this guy, right?’ Which is great. I'm totally fine with that.”