Like most people New Year’s Eve is a milestone for me. I write New Year’s Resolutions every year that focus on my biggest priorities of my life: Kristine, my Kids, my Athletics (kayaking and fishing) and my business, Jackson Kayak. It also covers the basics of health, happiness, etc.. I finished this annual contract with myself by 7am this morning. Wrapping up and doing the internal evaluation of my 2018, the good, the bad, and the middle ground set the stage for looking forward to making this year the best one yet. This is how I look at every situation, I am at point A and where I am going is going to be a point I have never reached before.
I have a lot of moving parts in my life. Simplicity becomes complicated and then back again from time to time. Jackson Kayak was a huge challenge in 2018 as we attempted to run the business without adequate funding this year. It was hard for everyone and too hard for some and we lost a few wonderful people to being overworked and under paid. Most of our team, however, stuck it out and we have a strong team for 2019. We also had a record year for profits in 2019, but the worst year for cash flow. I don’t intend to explain here how that happens, but let’s just say we are seasonal. We’ll have meetings this week to that are about funding and with funding, we have another record year staged up for 2019 with so many awesome projects coming into maturity. Our Flex Drive Kayaks will have an “E-Drive” option and that easy, two thumb screw, changeout will put us on top of the pile for pedal/Electric kayaks. The new Big Rig HD/FD is a game changer and now the Blue Sky Angler 360 is legal for KBF tournaments and it is the BOMB for tournament fishing! We have a new Zen that is going to come out this spring that we are VERY Excited about, and there are a ton of other things that are happening at Jackson Kayak that put us in a great place for a killer year. New oven that allows us to make 3 Orion Coolers at one time, some sales help with coolers that will put us in the driver’s seat with Orion in 2019! Our new Orion Kennels are already hitting a nerve and will be an awesome addition to our portfolio, all made in house. (Jase fabricated the molds!). Whew- lots going on at JK!! Mostly good, but there are always challenges that make things scary….
Kristine and the kids (Emily, Dane, KC… and Nick, and Tucker, and Parker) are doing well. With 2 grandkids (they slept over last night because Nick is getting sinus surgery this morning) the Jackson ranch is always crazy busy. Working from home, as does Emily, Dane, Nick, and Kristine…. You have a combo of dueling computers, kids running around, kayaking to be done, working out, etc….
We also host Jackson Kayak team, dealers, friends, etc.. for dinners, or whatever. The average number of people at our kitchen table over the past 30 days has been close to 10 with up to 22. That is a lot of dishes!
Kristine and I sneak in games of Backgammon at least 1 time/day. We play a tournament to 9 points. It usually takes about 20 minutes, but it is a time where we sit together and interact over something that isn’t about business, or kayaking, or money, etc.. Kristine was sick for about 2 months, all of November and December and is just recovering. Bronchitus, asthma, etc. that she couldn’t shake. I was impressed with how she managed everything given her condition. She is a trooper.
Emily is the most serious one of the family and keeping her from over stressing is the hardest thing. She was more mature than I was at age 10 when I was 35… Now she is 29 and I am 54 and she is twice as mature. Thanks for taking good care of me Emily! 🙂
Dane is doing his thing and proving to be one of the nicest, hard working, young men out there. He performs well anything he cares about and kayaking is certainly on that list. I am not even trying to hang on his level anymore as he crushes big waterfalls, hard rapids, and big moves so effortlessly that I am happy to just watch him from shore when he is doing his bigger stuff.
KC turned 10 years old and is still struggling with speech but not with personality, caring, and smiling. His school is coming along, but I wish I had more time with him on a regular basis. He is a product of the new age and electronics is his favorite thing in life at the moment it seems. Hoping to help him gravitate to more outdoor activities soon. He likes them, but only after you get him out there and only for a while. KC had some great kayaking experiences this year, however. Colorado, TN, Canada, and more. Camping, Fishing, swimming, whitewater kayaking and kayak fishing were all part of his 2018. His swimming is getting strong, and he can hold his breath for a long time.
He loves catching fish, but he is not sure about the fishing part where you don’t catch them.
Tucker and Parker are my grandkids. 5 and 2. They are currently in the hot-tub, of which I just got out. There is a hose of cold water in it, too and that is the game. spraying, hiding underwater, etc.. Parker, the 2 year old is a firecracker. Good luck Nick and Emily… this is but a preview. Of course that is how I like it…. Everything on full throttle, including kids. Tucker and Parker are on fast forward in their own ways.
My whitewater kayaking was solid this year. Ran some good class 5 runs, trained and competed in freestyle, did some good races, etc…. Perhaps my personal highlight was conceptualizing and doing a new move, something I have done a lot of over the years, but none since my 40’s.. The “Stunt Double” seal launch where I perch my kayak on the tittering point 20 feet over the water, backwards, and then do a backflip into the water at the perfect angle to jump back up and out of the water for a front flip. I did it for the first time with the Rock Star 4.0 on its virgin run!
I had some strong results at the GoPro Games, including 4th place in the Ultimate Mountain Challenge. I had some race wins, freestyle medals, etc.. Nothing like my dominant years, but still respectable. It is fun for me to compete, still, so I still do.
I ended December 2017 in Argentina where I got 15th and 6th (squirt) in the World Championships. I am going into 2019 with USA Team Trials for Freestyle Kayaking World Championships being in March. I need to make the USA Team to get back to Sort Spain, where I won the Worlds in 2001, the last time it was there. I am fired up to do that. Team Trials in Rock Island, TN, and worlds at a spot that is good for me. Big water, hard hole, good… :).
My Kayak Fishing keeps ramping up as well with me being selected as Team Captain of the USA Bass Kayak Team for the Pan Am Championships in 2019. I want to be the Pan Am Champion, of course, so here we go! I landed 2 fish over 10 pounds this year out of my kayaks. 1 in the Angler 360 on its virgin run!
Fishing the FLW Tour is proving to be a worthy challenge! I imagined myself at the top of the ranks by year 3…. Kristine said year 5. It took me 5 years to get to the top of Slalom kayaking once I started training for it. I imagined being on the USA Slalom team in 1 year as well. The good news is that I don’t give up and time and consistency is how you get to the top. I am employing both. I expect to see a huge rise in my rankings in 2019 and the first tournament will begin next week on Sam Rayburn in Texas. You can find the Jackson Kayak/Orion Coolers booth at each FLW Event if you want to come see what we have, meet the team, and talk about Kayaks and coolers! You can also win cool prizes just by showing up for the Championship Sunday weigh-in!
Physically I have been maintaining, with some highs and lows, but generally I can’t complain. I thought I was running the Marine Corps Marathon with Kristine and Emily but Kristine wasn’t able to train and wasn’t ready. I wasn’t running long yet, but got my record time on the “loop” at Rock Island at 18:36 and it was during a double lap, where the first loop was under 20. It is good to know that my body still responds to training in the right way. I hadn’t been running that much. My last hard run was racing at the GoPro Games “apres 5K” where we raced up the mountain and back, a grueling 5K. I was first in my age class, but I will train for that if I do it again this year, as I was sucking wind at 8,000 feet and going uphill.
I have a mix of friends that I communicate with, and do things with. It is a real “mix” of demographics now! Clay and Stephen are 100% whitewater kayakers (like my kids) and don’t understand the fishing thing. I have some 100% fishing friends that I talk to a lot, but always about fishing. They are spread out on the different tours now- FLW, MLF, and BASS. Christmas party at Wesley Strader’s house was a “who’s who” of SE bass fishing and it was not the same as a Christmas party with whitewater kayakers, mostly due to subject matter. Walking into Wesley and Stephanie’s log house started with trying not to get run over by Brad Knight’s bass boat and big truck. Andy Morgan, Michael Neal, Brad, Gerald Swindle, Wesley, and more were running around the house…. Mostly listening to Gerald tell hilarious stories…. Reminded me of kayaker parties where Steve Fisher, Dan Campbell were doing their stories and antics, while all of my kayaker friends were running around enjoying the party…. Funny that Steve and Dan spent the past two days at my house. Steve from South Africa and Dan from Australia. Both living in the USA now. Today Clay and Andi will come over for New Year’s eve party and Stephen if around. He might have gone to Columbus to paddle. Shooting off fireworks, and eating good food, hot tub, games, etc.. Hopefully we’ll get a good paddle in first- Rock Island is HIGH!!!! Water is BIG!
If I were to summarize how I feel about my life it would be, that it is a good thing that I enjoy the struggle, because that never ends. Jackson Kayak will always push my limits, along with my fishing, kayaking, and being a good husband and father. Struggles are what make you strong. The ‘downtime’ you experience when you just chill out is good as well, but set as a goal, it takes me down the wrong road.
So, let’s get 2019 started! Meetings with my Partner, Tony get things started. He has been an amazing partner since I started Jackson Kayak back in 2003. I am hoping he will be happy with our meetings and the future of JK in 2019! So much rides on the team I put together years ago that knows this business like the back of their hands. We are a family, just like my wife and kids. We have struggled, won, lost, and are still in the game and “All In”.
Time to spend time with Kristine and the kids for New Year’s Eve…
Here is a Video Steve Fisher made For Nissan about my life this year…