By Grace Hoffmann, Swimming World College Intern
As I called to interview a particular University of Arizona alum and 1996 NCAA champion, I expected to hear about swimming and his glory days. To my surprise, the only talk of swimming I had with Dr. Martin Pepper, was how swimming was “just a small part” of his life.
Pepper is a man of many talents. He’s an adventurer. He’s an entrepreneur. He’s a researcher. He’s an explorer. He pursues his interests in piloting and discovery.
Martin’s older brother, Seth Pepper, was a very accomplished swimmer at the University of Arizona– he won the 100 butterfly at 1993 NCAAs. Seth also qualified for the Olympic Trials in the 100 butterfly and finished third at trials. With the great accomplishments of his older brother to set the standard high, younger brother Martin did not fail to perform in his years as an Arizona Wildcat. Martin won the 100 butterfly with a time of 46.74 at the 1996 NCAA Championships; a great accomplishment and huge improvement from finishing 8th the year before. Both Pepper brothers are members of the University of Arizona’s Hall of Fame.
Although he considers swimming just a small part of the big picture, he spoke highly of the family aspect of his team. He accredits swimming to learning visualization and being able to use it to further his career. He also explained to me how swimming meant traveling, and that was what he really enjoyed.
Discoveries Beyond the Pool
The post-swimming life for Pepper has matched the success he had in college. Pepper went on to receive another degree in ecology and evolutionary biology and earned his master’s degree in wildlife and vegetation management. In 2009, he went back to the University of Arizona to receive his Ph.D in structural geology and geochronology. Pepper collected 270 river sand samples for his doctorate and on the seven-month trip he traveled over 30,000 miles.
With the help of his brother, Pepper made a goofy “personal reel” video of himself and it sparked interest. His charismatic and knowledgable approach landed him his first gig on the Discovery Science Channel in 2013.
Pepper played host for a show called “How the Earth Works.” The 8 part series went very well for Pepper. He joked and said that it taught him more about how the earth doesn’t work!
Most recently Pepper landed a job as host of the show “Atlantis Found” on the History Channel. This documentary covers the whereabouts of the lost city of Atlantis. Pepper uses new evidence and clues to discover what Atlantis looks like and where exactly it was. For a man who said he never wants to hold a “normal job,” I think he’s scored something far from a nine to five.
Pepper has had what he calls “epic trips.” On one of these, a trip to the Amazon, Pepper was taken hostage. On another, he almost got in trouble because townspeople thought he was stealing cattle. In a 30 minute phone call, I listened to Martin’s multitude of action-packed stories, which were more stimulating than watching years worth of adventure films.
Risks Pay Off
Currently, Pepper is planning his next trip. Pepper’s advice to me and to anyone out there willing to listen would be to “push your boundaries” and to “take huge risks.” He said he would throw himself off a cliff with any chance he got. Although his idea of risk may be quite different than the normal person, what he is saying has a lot of value. Martin Pepper is a great example of someone who holds the reins to his own life and follows his own dreams.
Although I don’t know exactly what the next adventure for Pepper is, I know it will be full of the extraordinary.
A few resounding words of wisdom from Pepper: “If you fall flat on your face, you learn more than the person who didn’t try at all.”