A Challenger Approaches: Episode 1


Growing up, I was told that in order to be successful in life, you need to get into college, get a good job, buy a house, and live happily ever after. And I did that. I graduated from Rowan University with a Chemical Engineering degree, got a "good job" right out of school, and made it as far as considering buying a home. I honestly thought I was doing everything right, but it felt wrong. Some people may have said I was “successful,” but it didn’t feel that way.

So, one month ago, I decided to quit my job. Why would anyone in their right mind throw away what I had?! Usually, people quit their jobs because they are either unhappy or have a better opportunity with a different employer, but for me, the reasons were different. I wanted to get out and experience the world, meet its people, and learn about different people's ways of life. But meeting new people is hard! How would I make it easy to meet people? The answer became clear: Super Smash Bros.!

As you guys know, Super Smash Bros. is an incredible franchise featuring iconic characters that are known and loved worldwide. It’s truly amazing to see how the game establishes a connection between people, which then enables us to comfortably share our experiences and stories with each other. This summer, I’ve made it my goal to play Super Smash Bros. Ultimate with as many people as possible, share experiences, and retell their stories here with the rest of the Smash community.

This road trip will be long and arduous for me, but each time I face someone, they will have to be ready when A Challenger Approaches!

Two short weeks after quitting my job, I packed up my belongings, hopped in my 2006 Toyota 4Runner, and hit the road. I’ve brought my Nintendo Switch, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, a 22-inch LCD TV. While my setup is solar-powered, I'm powered by a drive to face the world. I'll be roughing it most of the way, camping most nights in US national forest lands, but also occasionally renting a room in a hostel or in an "Air Bnb".

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The 4runner and the solar panel on the day of departure.


Super Smash Bros. Ultimate set up in my campsite along Panther Creek in the Nantahala National Forest.

The first person I challenged on this journey was my long-time friend, Justin Mrowicki. I met Justin during our freshman year of high school, and we became friends over a mutual interest in games like Super Smash Bros., Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, Fallout 3, and Call of Duty: World at War. After high school, we went to different colleges, but stayed in touch. When I told him I decided to take this trip, he said I should come visit him in Florida, so I did! While I was there, I interviewed him!

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Justin and his pet boa, Ruby.

Luke: So Justin, here’s a really tough question to start you off. How old are you?
Justin: 25
L: Good answer.
L: Where do you currently live (where are we currently?), and what do you like about living there?
J: St. Petersburg, Florida. The tropical weather here is great, and generally there’s a chill atmosphere.

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Pelicans roosting in Florida.

L: What else do you do here in Florida other than play Super Smash Bros. Ultimate? What are your hobbies here in Florida?
J: Frisbee golf, archery, video games, watching movies, going to nature places, kayaking, working on my website, and hanging with my girlfriend. There’s a great disc golf course in the nearby park. It’s a really nice park with cool palm trees and reptiles running around everywhere.

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Justin tees off on the 8th hole of his local Frisbee golf course.

Justin: I also am a huge fan of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. We play online together. You know this.
Luke: Haha, yeah I guess you're right! Do you think the Florida heat affects your gameplay?
J: Hahaha like affects my connection online?
L: No, I mean like it must be so hot that it makes you sluggish right?
J: Oh not at all. We have air conditioning. (Chuckles)
L: I bet the heat affects your hydration level though. How’s your hydration level?
J: It’s fantastic. I’m the water champ. Especially when I play video games.

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Salty Florida sea water is not good for hydration.

Luke: What do you do here for a living in Florida?
Justin: I work at USF College of Marine Science as a lab technician. I am responsible for extracting pH readings from fish livers and bile using High Pressure Liquid Chromatography and Gas Chromatography. The goal is to study the effects of the Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill in 2009 in the Gulf of Mexico.

L: So what have you seen so far with the results?
J: Well actually, I have seen a lot of numbers, but I don’t have a great idea of the big picture. I have to prepare tons of samples and collect tons of data and then give that to another researcher who is a Doctorate in Marine Toxicology. We have probably analyzed close to a thousand livers at this point.

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A Brown Anole displaying its "dewlap." Is it trying to mate with me?

L: So how did you get into this position? Where did you go to school?
J: I went to Eckerd College for a Bachelors of Science in Biology with a Minor in Psychology. I kinda just fell into the job. My friend Bridget was working in the position I have now and was moving on to something else. She recommended me as a replacement, I got an interview, then I guess I nailed the interview because I was hired! I was hired part-time at first, but then a month later, they hired me full time.

L: Do you consider yourself successful doing this? What is your definition of success?
J: Definitely! “Success” is being able to comfortably work towards whatever goal you want to. I am working towards a good cause, and it's giving me the ability to support myself. “Success” shouldn't be money related, it's about being content and being able to comfortably support your physiological human needs (food, water, shelter).

L: Who is your main in Ultimate and why?
J: Bowser because he’s a quick, heavy boi with a lot of KO moves. You can take a lot of damage and continue living to high percents. I also wanted to pick someone that was fun to play as, but not the most popular character. I don’t play against too many Bowsers online. The Bowser grab options are real nice. You can KO off the top platform on Battlefield if your opponent’s percentage is high enough, or if you’re up a stock, you can grab and carry them off the edge of any stage for an SD/KO.

L: Are you ready to face me, “The Challenger”?
J: Absolutely.

Video of Match #1 : "The Challenger 'Luke'" vs Justin and Ruby

Game 1 was a mess! Both of us appear to be nervous wrecks. Justin pulled through, and demonstrated Bowser's SD/KO grab ability to seal a victory in Game 1 against me, Ganondorf. In Game 2, I showed how Ganondorf can be a deadly foe against Bowser when I "zero to deathed" him on his second stock. I swiftly took the win in Game 2. Game 3 was close down to the last stock. It was honestly one of the most nerve-wracking games in my smash career. In the end, I triumphed in Game 3 with Ganondorf. Clearly, Justin showed his skills with Bowser, and it was an exciting match!

I am extremely happy to start this series 1 - 0! Can't wait to see what's in store for me down the road!

Thank you for the interview and matches Justin! Justin was a formidable opponent who skillfully demonstrated the grab options he discussed in the interview! We can clearly see advantages (and disadvantages) of using Bowser. Additionally, St. Petersberg, Florida seems is a beautiful and truly unique place to live.

This has been the first edition of A Challenger Approaches! Look out for the next episode, when I play against Ed from Australia!

If you would like to hear more about my journey, you can follow me on Instagram @LukasHaydukas or on my website/blog at panboys.net.

All of the photography for this article was done by me, Luke Hayduk!
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Luke Hayduk


aaa I'm so glad to finally have this out! it's certainly an exciting journey. I'm hoping this series gets noticed by our fellow userbase.
Yoooooo. This reminds me of Backpacker Slash's topic in the Melee boards. GL on your journey dude. Also Malano cookies are godlike. :V
Yoooooo. This reminds me of Backpacker Slash's topic in the Melee boards. GL on your journey dude. Also Malano cookies are godlike. :V
He is definitely an inspiration for this series! He's traveling without a car though so props to him for that!