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Kat and her kayak community celebrating Hunter's Birthday

Kayak Anglers Unite

Chasing the dream of becoming a professional angler sounds like a lot of "fun in the sun"; but the reality is, turning a passion into a career takes quite a lot of work. Spending countless hours on the water can be pretty tough - especially when your vessel is "human-powered". Kayak anglers don't have the luxury of zipping around the lake when the fish aren't biting in one spot. In turn, we have to become very good at breaking down the areas we fish, which requires us to practice a lot; even more so when when you're a competitive kayak angler. We have to learn to keep launching, keep pushing, keep casting, despite our losses.

And the type of people that display that level of dedication?
Tend to be pretty awesome.

They're the type of people who would give you the shirt off their backs, or lend you a fishing rod when yours meets its tragic fate on the way to the lake.

They're also the type of people who come together to create a pretty epic surprise...

You see, back at the end of fall, Ryan and I met a very special young man on the boat ramp named Hunter. Full of youthful curiosity, Hunter began asking us all about our gear, and our rods, and what we were fishing for, and our kayaks - and we were more than happy to oblige. But as we began to interact with Hunter, one thing was very familiar, very quickly...because I have a niece and two nephews with the same traits.

Despite the vast amount of individual differences, when someone you love is on the autism spectrum - you recognize it almost immediately.

Shortly after we started talking with Hunter, his mother came over from her watchful perch to introduce herself. Sila went on to tell us how much Hunter loves fishing, especially because [as Hunter puts it] "the fish don't care that I'm different" - which couldn't be more true (that's why I love them so much too, Hunter)! We also ended up talking a lot about working in the [public safety] field (my former profession), because as it turns out, Sila Carr is a Denton County police officer, and her husband, Terry (aka "Bucky") Carr, is a McKinney firefighter/paramedic.

After we chatted with Hunter and his mom for a bit, I shared my information with her, and told her to check out a few social networking groups, so she could help Hunter find more spots to fish, especially come springtime.

Then a few days ago, Sila posted on one of those groups, looking for some guidance on getting her son his first kayak for his 15th birthday; and she also happened to mention "we had pleasure of meeting Kat at Lake Ray Roberts...she inspired him beyond words to reach out to new things..."

Two things happened the moment I read that post:

1. All the feels

2. The kayak anglers united

And one thing was absolutely certain...

Hunter was getting a kayak for his birthday.

The amount of people that answered the call, was nothing short of amazing.

In a matter of 3 days, with the help of my amazing kayak angling family, we managed to create an epic birthday surprise...

Kat picking up a kayak donated by Felix Rodriguez

A Pelican kayak filled with fishing gear

A Pelican kayak filled with fishing gear

A Pelican kayak filled with fishing gear

Grab a tissue...

Kat with Hunter and his family

Kat and her kayak community celebrating Hunter's Birthday

Hunter holding his signed copy of 'Finesse Fishing with Mike Iaconelli'

Hunter testing out his new kayak in his family's garage

All of this just goes to show how far a little bit of kindness on the boat ramp can go.

Words can't describe the amount of gratitude I have for everyone who helped to pull this all off, especially in such a short amount of time - but I'd like to thank the following:

  • My incredibly supportive husband, Ryan Backa

  • Scott Kamp, along with his awesome organization, Pure Fishing

  • The legendary, Mike Iaconelli

  • Warren Gold, my brother in leadership of the nonprofit Operation Outdoors

  • John Stockman, and all the guys of Kayak Anglers of Fort Worth

  • Fellow kayak angler, Felix Rodriguez

  • Fellow kayak angler, Ben Huffman

  • Fellow kayak angler, Mark Pendergraf

  • Fellow kayak angler, Walter Norris

  • Fellow kayak angler, Inocente Sandoval

  • Fellow kayak angler, Christopher Alvarez

  • Fellow kayak angler, John Vandine

  • Fellow kayak angler, Cliff Smith

  • Our host, Miguelito's Mexican Restaurant in Sanger, Texas

  • From all of us on the water,

    Happy birthday, Hunter!

    Welcome to our kayak angling family.

    - Kat

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