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The Paddle Fishing Paradigm Shift

I bet you, like many others, have no idea what the hell a paradigm is, let alone how to shift it. This buzz word has been bounced around for years so I finally decided to look it up. You know, so I can be cool at parties and such. I found a ton of definitions, but basically, a "paradigm" is how we view what we feel is "normal". And a "paradigm shift" is a change in normalcy, or acceptance of a new routine or state of being. Paddle fishing has been around long enough to set some boundaries of "normal", and long enough to identify what is therefore "not normal". But the paddle angling norms are shifting, and they're shifting in an unusual direction.

Traditional sit-inside sea kayaks have changed only as technology and imagination have allowed, but have still stayed true to their Inuit roots. The same can't be said for their teenage children, sit-on-top fishing kayaks and canoes. It's quite evident that these youngsters have ADD.


No, this isn't Mass. Sit back down. In the beginning, some Californians decided that they could fish from surfboards - crazy Californians. Finally, when surfboards could no longer hold enough rods, gear, and most importantly, a cooler, the sit-on-top kayak was born. Time passes, and sit-on-top kayaks rose to be the new paradigm of human powered fishing. Life was good at first, thanks to this simple solution. But some anglers longed to be able to see fish from a standing point of view. The race was now on to create a paddle craft that one could stand in. Some had no issue with paddling a flatter, slower boat in order to be able to stand. They would use the 2-sided paddle as a single long paddle. "Hey, this is pretty cool up here, and good exercise too." "Let's invent a paddle-board". "I might as well put a rod holder on it." "This thing does pretty good with waves too - I bet you could surf on it". The parents shake their heads …


While those crazy Californians were catching sea bass from surfboards, others around the world were quietly paddling and fishing from canoes. Canoes have certainly been around for thousands of years, so this notion of canoe fishing certainly isn't new, or is it "nu"? As the sit-on-top kayak market morphed to accommodate those wanting more storage room and better seats, it soon became evident that the end solution lied with modifying a canoe, not modifying a kayak. These vessels are now called a "Hybrid", which is the new paradigm for a canoe. Native Watercraft, NuCanoe, and a host of others are now offering the new "normal" as far as canoes go. Some like to call them a hybrid kayak. But to me, if water can't drain through the floor, it's a canoe.


It may just start with me. Soon, I'm going to start working on a NEW idea. I think I'll call it … the sit-on-top fishing kayak (read that again, using a real deep radio DJ voice, with a wee bit of echo). It will be a throwback, much like the automotive throwbacks we're currently enjoying with the Mustang, Camaro, and Challenger. Did you hear that Chevy is going to release a new Corvette based around the 1967 5-window fastback? Me either, but if they did you might find one of my kidneys on E-Bay. Back to my boat … it would probably have two rod holders in the back, one upfront. Probably have an indent in the tank well for a bucket. And, it would probably look a lot like an old Scupper Pro TW. You may have to wait a few more years for the current circle to complete though. But when the cycle comes back around, I'll be there, ready to make bajillions. Or, maybe I should just start buying up old Scupper Pros now … hmmm.


In an earlier article I warned that for me, 2011 was going to be the year of "why not" instead of "why". Let me share my "why not" story of a long over due personal paradigm shift. But before I tell my story, let me share another …

A boat full of tourists docked in a tiny fishing village. One tourist complimented a fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took him to catch them.

"Not very long," answered the fisherman. "But then, why didn't you stay out longer and catch more?" asked the tourist. The fisherman explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family. The tourist asked, "But what do you do with all your time?"

"I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a nap with my wife. In the evenings, I go into the village to see my friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar, and sing a few songs ... I have a full life."

The tourist interrupted, "I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help you!  You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat. With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers.  Instead of selling your fish to a middle man, you can negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant."  "You can then leave this little village and move to Atlanta, or Los Angeles, or even New York City! From there you can direct your huge enterprise."

"How long would that take?" asked the fisherman. "Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years," replied the tourist. "And after that?"

"After that? That's when it gets really interesting," answered the tourist, laughing. "When your business gets really big, you can start selling stock and make millions!"

"Millions? Really? And after that?"  "After that -- and this is the best part -- you'll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, catch a few fish, take a nap with your wife, and spend your evenings drinking, playing guitar, and enjoying your friends!"

The moral of the story - life may not be short, but it can easily be misspent. We all have to work, pay bills, and change the filter in the air conditioner (monthly). But if you have a passion for the water (you wouldn't be reading down this far if you didn't), act on it. Go make a memory.

We had always hoped to retire by the sea. When we got the chance to move to Florida, we found ourselves a great little place only footsteps away from the beach, and many years before retirement. We toasted each and every sunset over the Gulf. We fished. We kayaked. We had a very full life. However, we craved a few creature comforts, labored over the long drive to work and back, and decided to do the "responsible" thing and move inland. The gas money (and time) we saved through the week was spent on the weekends going back to the beach and other places to kayak and fish. We still had a great life. But our life, like most great meals, could be better with a pinch of salt. After reading the story above on several occasions, we knew we needed a paradigm shift. Our daily commute to work will be longer soon. Gas prices may hit $6 a gallon, but you can't put a price on being able to open your back door to a dock with your kayaks on it. Sometimes in life (as in sports), you need to play in a way to WIN, not play in a way to avoid a LOSS.

But, it's not always about me. I also knew that my readers would benefit from my proximity to a prime fishing and kayaking location, and the experiences and knowledge that could be shared as a result. So, no more photos of kayaks in the pool. No more stories about it being months since my last paddle fishing adventure. We're moving back to the water, and the guitar is coming back out. Dim the lights (except the blue ones), queue Bryan Adams …

"… you know it's true … everything I do …I do it for you …"

See you out on the water... guaranteed.

"Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after"
~ Henry David Thoreau

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