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The adventure collector

From drag racing to cage diving, Brittany Wilem Kahler lives life at full throttle

Photography by Brandi Stage Portraiture | Hair and makeup by Brooke Soto, Electric Lady Hair Studio


For a young girl fascinated by pirates, there are few better places to spend your childhood summers than the beaches and harbors of the Bahamas.

Brittany Wilem Kahler, World Record Snapper

When Gulfport native Brittany Wilem Kahler wasn’t snorkeling, fishing or swimming, she was reading everything she could find about swashbuckling seafarers. One day, a lady who worked in a marina store handed her a weathered, stained piece of paper, which turned out to be a map. Kahler and her dad, Frank Wilem, set out on a boat to see where it led.

“The adventure would end with a box buried on the beach that had different toys I was interested in at the time or local currency,” she recalls. “I had no idea that my dad was the one behind the idea, but I had the best time ever on those treasure hunts.”

Now the CEO of Bloxx Building, Kahler has lost none of her penchant for daring deeds and exciting exploits. If anything, her boldness and appetite for adventure have grown. From drag racing and scuba diving to ziplining and cage diving with sharks, Kahler’s fearless approach to life has yielded a treasure trove of rich experiences.

“Being adventurous and being an entrepreneur share the same qualifications of needing to be willing to take risks,” she says. “There’s no right or wrong way to do either one, but you have to be willing to invoke that nervous feeling of taking on the challenge.”

NO BAIT, NO FISH

During those idyllic Bahamian summers, Kahler developed some character traits that would serve her well: patience, perseverance and self-sufficiency. Give someone a fish, so the saying goes, and she eats for a day; but teach her to fish, and she eats for a lifetime. Kahler quickly found that to entice a bite, she must be willing to bait her hook with a slimy squid.

“I grew up learning the lesson of, ‘Those who are willing to work for it will be rewarded’; that applied to several aspects of my life, from the outdoors to business,” Kahler recalls. “From a young age, I was taught that I needed to learn how to do things for myself and not be dependent on others to make things happen.”

Soon, she was independent and confident enough to start her first business: catching bait for the charter boat captains. Her employers typically rewarded her with hotdogs and popsicles rather than money.

Brittany with her father, Frank J. Wilem, Jr.

“However, I earned my first-ever dollar on those docks in the Bahamas,” she recalls. “I still have that Bahamian dollar to this day, thanks to my dad keeping and framing it for me.”

Her dad also joined her on “daddy-daughter dive trips” once Kahler became certified at age 10, which took them to Honduras, Belize, Mexico, Curacao, the Florida Keys and several other spots known for their underwater beauty. The pair went on to co-host a popular show together, too, called “Find Your Outdoors,” which aired to 20 million households weekly. During the filming of one memorable episode, Kahler went diving in the shark tank at the Florida Aquarium.

Brittany diving in the shark tank at the Tampa Aquarium

‘GO FOR IT HEADFIRST’

Brittany ziplining

Now a wife to Stephen Kahler and a mother to 6-month-old Addilyn, Kahler plans to teach her daughter the same thing she learned at an early age: You can achieve anything with the right mindset.

“Anything that you’ve never done before is scary,” she says, “but boy, is it worth it when you’ve done it and can tell the story about it.”

For instance, she was terrified to jump out of a perfectly good plane while attached to another person and a parachute — but she wouldn’t trade the rush of skydiving for anything. She’s also been nervous every time she’s climbed into a racecar or strapped on a scuba tank, knowing that anything can happen.

“But if I had never learned to push through those fears and nerves,” Kahler reasons, “I would’ve never accomplished a fraction of the things I can now look back on and tell the stories about.”

Brittany diving in Florida Keys with lionfish

Some of those accomplishments include earning a black belt in taekwondo and breaking three world fishing records. There’s also the large dragster she and her husband, Stephen, bought and competed with soon after getting married, which they would regularly run at 180-plus miles per hour.

“So, for any woman who wants to live an adventurous life, I say go for it headfirst!” Kahler says. “Don’t let the moment pass you by since the regrets aren’t worth it, but the feelings of accomplishment and fun spent doing those things by yourself or with loved ones are!”

“So, for any woman who wants to live an adventurous life, I say go for it headfirst! Don’t let the moment pass you by…”

PURSUING THE RUSH

Brittany, Mahi Mahi Costa Rica

Wanderlust has led Kahler to go ziplining and white-water rafting in Costa Rica, hunting in different parts of the world and cage diving with great whites in Africa — but there’s still no place like home. One of her favorite pastimes is gliding through the Mississippi Sound on a calm, sunny day, herself or her husband at the helm while they sing along to music and their dogs enjoy the wind in their fur.

Once Addilyn gets a little older, her parents would love to get her certified to dive, and perhaps take her to Africa to witness animal migration from a hot-air balloon. Flyfishing in Alaska, seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland and exploring more of Montana also rank high on their list.

Whatever adventure Kahler undertakes, her motivation is always the same.

“It’s the wind in your hair, the launch of the racecar from the starting line, the saltwater spraying as the boat moves effortlessly, the first jump off the dive boat in the morning … and that feeling of being able to accomplish whatever you truly set your mind to do,” she says. “Those are just feelings that I can’t fully describe but bring a smile to my face and make my heart beat a little faster every time I think about them.”

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