As a 6-year-old growing up in Hawaii, Travis Mazingo was jumping off 50-foot waterfalls with his dad. He was surfing well before his teenage years, exploring national parks and backpacking with his grandmother in a crater on Maui.
He’s kept it up through his 20s and 30s, moving to seven states to chase his pursuits before landing in Oregon in 2008. “I’m an adrenaline junkie,” Mazingo says. “It helps me live. It keeps me alive, happy. The outdoors have been my therapy, my release, my whole life.”
After stints at various jobs including a surf and snowboard instructor, Mazingo has found his calling leading year-round outdoor adventures for visitors in Oregon with a particular focus. He’s one of a dozen guides with Troutdale-based Rare Earth Adventures who are certified as Leave No Trace educators.
That means that their groups — whether they’re moonlight snowshoeing at Mt. Hood, backcountry skiing at Crater Lake, surfing in Newport or rock climbing at Rooster Rock — are instilled with the ethics of enjoying the outdoors responsibly.
“Before learning the principals [of Leave No Trace], it was always taught to me,” he says. “‘Protect your island. Don’t take the shells. Pick up your trash.’ … I’m in the business of providing enjoyment. That just makes everything that much better to have a pristine, beautiful environment to share and continue using.”
Balancing the thrill and danger of extreme sports has hardly been Mazingo’s biggest challenge. At age 21, he developed a degenerative eye disease called keratoconus, which left him legally blind within six weeks. His thinning corneas couldn’t handle wearing eyeglasses or contacts and there was no cure at the time, so he lived with poor vision for 10 years, continuing his radical lifestyle by adapting. “It was just a matter of trying to learn life blurry,” he says. “I was skydiving, paragliding, snowboarding. I refused to stop.”
His life changed again in 2010 when he learned that Olympic gold-medal bobsledder Steve Holcomb had the same disease and was able to restore his vision through a new surgery. Mazingo had the same surgery done later that year, and with new contacts, his eyesight returned.
“I hadn’t seen myself in 10 years; I just about had a heart attack with how old I looked,” he jokes. “I’d had a headache for 10 years from squinting. I was reading every street sign that went by. I hadn’t read in 10 years. … “It was the single greatest piece of adversity that I have had to overcome in my life.”
Most significantly, Mazingo could now see and appreciate the beauty of Oregon’s great outdoors, where he spends most of his time. “I feel like I’m in the epicenter for the outdoors,” he says. “One or two hours in any direction and you hit world-class mountains, world-class rivers, world-class surfing — shh, don’t tell anyone. Oregon just kind of covers it all.”
Head out on a trip with Mazingo and Rare Earth Adventures this summer: The season launches in June with trips offered most weekends, including Rock Climbing 101 Weekend at Rooster Rock in the Columbia River Gorge; “Whiskey and Waves” surf trip in Newport; and sunset rappels off the cliffs at Lewis & Clark State Recreation Site in Troutdale, overlooking the Sandy River.
Wherever you go in Oregon, make sure to follow the seven Leave No Trace principles:
- Plan ahead and prepare
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces
- Dispose of waste properly
- Leave what you find
- Minimize campfire impacts
- Respect wildlife
- Be considerate of other visitors.