Is 2013 already gone? I must be getting older because that went by way too fast! This last year brought many new things to my table, and I am so thankful for them. Our sport is growing at a break- neck pace. We have so many new people and new product innovations that promise to bring the beauty of paddling to places and people that otherwise would have never considered it. The world wide web has enhanced the effect and web sites like www.adventureonthewater.com are serving to inspire us to share in the beauty and encourage others to join in on the fun. What a great sport it is. Just look at the diversity that paddling is offering to people of all ages. I am now seeing everyone from toddlers to retirees in kayaks enjoying the outdoors and getting into nature, by literally, getting into nature. I am hard pressed to think of another sport that appeals to such a wide range of people, in such a wide range of uses. I think that at the core, the most influential aspect is not just being outdoors, but being a part of the outdoors. You have to get pretty far into the wilderness to get that feeling from hiking, but almost everyone has access to a pond or a lake that they can get into and watch a sunset or catch a fish, or just enjoy the solitude. Be alone.
In the competitive realm of kayak tournament fishing we now have hundreds of local and regional fishing tournaments that allow an unknown “newbie” to compete equally with a ranked professional without handicap. These kayak “Pro's” are completely accessible and willing to help with tips, rigging, equipment and advice. They might end it with “better luck next time”, and a wink, but they are willing to help and you'll walk away with an e-mail address. How many competitive sports can claim that? In a recent search of National Kayak fishing events we realized that with the exception of holidays, a person could fish in an event most every weekend and still miss half of them. Just here in Texas alone, and just in the freshwater realm we have blossomed from a few small tournaments with three to five events in a year, to three large tournament series with ten events each, with final qualifying events and a true final “Texas Open” in which anyone can compete. This new phenomenon is sure to stimulate more interest and bring new blood to the sport of kayak fishing.
With this new growth, we also have a responsibility to insure it remains accessible to all and to keep it clean and honest. I am seeing tournament organizers making great strides in standardizing the rules, etiquette and safety to allow the entry level person to get into the competition at a pace that won't break the bank or otherwise discourage them from starting. The new people coming in are sure to carry the wisdom and beauty of the sport into the future so it's a stake we all have in it as well as a duty to uphold. Encourage newcomers. Pay it forward. Somebody helped you to get into this. Now you go help somebody.
Some of the help is obvious. Take a kid fishing. Small children are easy and they will likely fit into your single sit on top kayak, but even if you have to rent or borrow a tandem, it's well worth it. They need to be outdoors and be curious. It will open your eyes. Kids ask good questions and are pretty smart. They will never forget the trip and you will likely convert them into the kayaking lifestyle. Talk to parents and the kids and you'll discover that there is a desire for more outdoor activity. Not just in your own family, but we all know a single parent that can use a safe, wholesome sport to share with their children that there is more to life than a game screen. A kayak is a perfect place to show them the water and the wildlife and to just take time to slow down and take a breath. Go help the Boy Scouts clean up a lake. Volunteer to be a resource for them. Check out the Eagle Scout programs. They are always looking for good projects and they are our future kayaker's. Why stop at kids? Take your neighbor fishing. Take a friend from work. Take your Mom fishing. Heck, Take your wife fishing. But wait! Now that I think about it, don't tell her how much that reel is worth or that some fish have teeth. Trust me on this one. Take more people out there to see it from your perspective. You will likely get more out of it than you give.
On a final note for the year I would like to take a minute to thank a great resource here in Texas, and a Johnson Product dealer, Austin Canoe and Kayak. We know them around here as, “ACK”. The folks at ACK are well known in the industry for a high level of customer service with competitive pricing and quality shipping. They have set the “Gold” standard for shipping these difficult packages and insuring the customer is satisfied and happy. Here locally you can find their stickers on about every tenth car. They have been an invaluable resource to me and my fellow outdoors people for much more than just kayaking. They are a true outdoors outfitter. Just pay a visit to the web site and you'll see. These guys are serious. For me personally, they are a great resource for everything I need but also help out with rudder installations, rigging solutions and always having the right part or widget to get the job done. The rental fleet is extensive and they bend over backwards to get even a large group set up safely and out the door fast. They have five stores in Texas, The original ACK in Austin, two in Houston, North and South, one in San Marcos, and the newest store in San Antonio.
They have also just moved the offices, the Customer Service team and warehouse to a larger building close to the Austin store that is all but full of kayaks and endless rows of parts and adventure toys that would make Santa jealous. Thanks ACK! Keep up the great work. Check them out. www.ack.com
Till next time, safe paddling and tight lines.
Mike “Chico” Garcia