One of the things I enjoy (very selfishly I must add) about spending so much time fishing out of my kayak across the country is meeting folks at the ramp. The conversations range from a simple hello, to “where you from with that accent”, to detailed explanations about how kayak tournaments work. I am always open to introducing anyone to the world of kayaking and kayak bass fishing.
Last weekend, I was coming off the water at Harrison Bay in Chattanooga when I noticed a couple with two kids getting kayaks ready to paddle out into the bay. Not something unusual, but I noticed they all had the exact same kayaks and it made me smile to see the kids excited about the adventure. As I loaded my kayak and gear, I listened to the boys talking about the paddles and for a second remembered when I was that young; how everything was a bit more magical.
Then the guy, Jeremiah Shope, came over and asked me a couple of questions about the depth finder I use on my Hobie PA14. He was curious about where I stored the battery, how well it worked, etc.. He called his wife Robyn over to show it to her and we talked about the pedal drive and differences in the tournament setup vs their kayaks for a few minutes. Then they walked away to continue preparing for their trip.
Then I did something that shocked even myself, so I can only imagine how it appeared to these complete strangers.
“Can I take a pic of you guys?”. I had thought about it, walked away; thought about it, walked away…then asked. I did ask them to look up Mike Cheatham fishing on Facebook so they knew I wasn’t a complete nut case…I hope that was enough….(thanks guys!).
I explained that I do a bit of writing and wanted to share our interaction with folks; which as I sit here typing is not quite accurate. It wasn’t about the conversation, or the fact that I (in a very nonstalker like way for the record!!) had listened to them as I loaded up my kayak. And it isn’t completely about the kayaks either, or that they all matched – which was cool too; though the kayaks are an integral part of why I was so moved to ask strangers to allow me into their lives for a few minutes.
It is because I truly appreciate the fact that they took the time away from whatever goes on in their world daily to get out together. In our busy lives it is so easy to tune each other out, to move around the days just watching them pass. It was a great moment for me, and for a few seconds, I wasn’t tired and beat up from the competition. Instead, my day was a bit more complete.
It is because I, as a 56 year old dude, can kayak with my wife or hundreds of anglers in tournaments and get to meet people like the Shopes…if only for a few minutes at a ramp on a bay in Chattanooga.
It is because people older than me, younger than me, with disabilities….everyone can also get out on the water and paddle/pedal/motor around. Kids can enjoy it while families spend time away from the day to day business.
To me that is the beautiful simplicity of kayaks. It is an affordable option for everyone, especially young families with kids, to go on adventures together. Kayaks give an opportunity to get out and explore nature while building a lifetime of memories…something that will be carried along to those young boy’s families (to my kids, to my grandkids…maybe to you?). I know that there is a real chance I might have been in less trouble had I spent more time on the water when I was younger…pretty sure anyway…like to think so….