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Avid anglers and adventure enthusiasts love stepping up their game in a fishing kayak. They are more durable, versatile, stable and better equipped to handle the demands of angling and rougher waters. But, they can be so much more than that. They can be a deeper connection to the water – A more intimate experience with the areas you love the most.
For some, a fishing kayak can also be a therapeutic way back to the water.
Eric was an avid fisherman and motorcycle rider. Being near water and family were so important to Eric, that he and his wife, Keri, moved to Florida in 2019. “Being on the water is an integral part of Eric’s life,” Keri says. “He worked from home for years and a lot of times he worked from the boat. He spent at least three days a week on the water.”
In 2020, Eric experienced a hemorrhagic stroke. As a result, Eric has a right side deficit and some motor skill impairments. Boating and fishing, things so important to Eric, became difficult and more complicated. Beyond the physical toll, being away from the water and not knowing if he would be able to fish again also weighed heavily on Eric’s thoughts and psyche.
Keri decided it was time to find a way to get Eric back on the water and active again.
“I was considering a small John boat with a trolling motor, but in researching kayaks and small watercraft I came across the Big Fish 103,” Keri said. “The lever is on the left side and the pedals allow him to power it without rowing and it is so stable, which is important so that Eric does not feel like he is going to tip out. It had everything we needed, and the 8 ball handle was the sign to go for it,” – Eric had the same lever on his beach cruiser bicycle he used to ride.
Physical and occupational therapy are crucial parts to Eric’s recovery. Pedaling his Big Fish 103 offers vital exercise for his physical strength and motor skills. More importantly though, being on the water again has allowed Eric to return to the place he is happiest.
“The kayak has given Eric more freedom to get out there and start doing the things he loves again,” Keri says. “Being able to get on the water supersedes any exercise in a gym because getting on the water is far more motivational than traditional workouts.”
Despite all of the benefits, Eric and Keri still face some challenges they are still working out. Pedaling is still difficult on Eric’s right side and requires a strap to help keep his foot on the pedal. They are exploring modifying the pedals to model click-in supports much like cycling shoes. Not one to give up on his fishing, Eric is also working with gadgets and new gear for one-handed fishing despite the difficult learning curve.
Transitioning from a large boat to a fishing kayak was not easy, or something Eric was open to in the beginning.
“The kayak was a surprise for Eric and it was delivered when I was not home. He was hesitant and didn’t want it because he can’t row with one hand,” Keri said. “When our son came over and helped set it up, Eric saw the pedals and was ecstatic. It was a heartwarming moment.”
Challenges often provide opportunities and life isn’t about accepting your circumstances, it is about adapting to them. Eric’s Big Fish 103 has not only provided a way back to health, it has provided an entirely new way to experience the waters he traversed in his boat.
Some of their favorite experiences in a kayak include the new challenge of fishing, the beautiful sunsets, seeing dolphins and manatees up close, and the peace and quiet of sitting in their kayaks right on the water. Eric and Keri even have some new trips added to their bucket list. They hope to get their kayaks on the Colorado river or through some of the canyons in Arizona.
Despite facing a frustrating and difficult circumstance, Eric and Keri didn’t abandon their love for the water, they persisted and found a new way to experience what they love.