What does it take to live a life full of adventure? Adventure is not only about completing physical tasks but also having the mental stamina to go the distance. Do you have the spirit and self-discipline to overcome the lack of security with a life on the road? Living your life based on adventure and having weekend adventures are two completely different realms. How far are you willing to go now becomes how far can you go. For the next two months, I cross the threshold of adventure as a lifestyle. I have begun my training to become an outdoor guide with an early pioneer in the Texas kayak fishing industry. Not only will I work and train here in South Texas, but I exclusively get the privilege to live above the guide shop.
Captain Dean “Slowride” Thomas is a father, upstanding citizen, chamber of commerce member, entrepreneur, fishing guide, and a legend in the Texas kayak fishing industry. He has owned and operated Slowride Guide Services for more than fifteen years in Aransas Pass, Texas. He also has graciously agreed to sign me on as one of two new team members for his guide service.
The other team member is Kelly Watson. He is a man of distinct background. In a previous life, Kelly was a Texas Hill Country fishing guide on the Blanco and Llano Rivers. When a drought killed the natural resources supporting his business he packed up and hit the road for Louisiana. Over the last decade, he mastered crayfish and BBQ catering. Needing an extended vacation and time to get back into the fishing game he found his way to Slowride a few weeks before me. Dean and Kelly offer almost a hundred years of combined fishing experience from the Slowride Guide Shop.
I originally came here, because I wanted to learn what it takes to become an outdoor entrepreneur and guide. What I didn’t know was that between these two extraordinary characters I would gain more than just learning how to fish. Soon I became aware that I was receiving lessons in how to make it in life regardless of my profession.
I started learning the lifestyle through conversations that were deeper than the small talk about the fish caught on the day’s trip. My first three days of work consisted of waking up at 6:30 in the morning only to find that Dean was already gone. I was running late. That man got up and made for the water before the sun, the wind, or anyone else was up and moving. Not soon after I dressed and came downstairs Kelly pulled up into the lot in his white F-150 pickup truck still with Louisiana license plates. He immediately opened up the shop for our kayak rentals and instructed me to start moving the boats. His bark was not one of aggression, but that of a seasoned captain teaching a new deckhand how to keep a tight ship. Sweat. Heat. Sun. These became daily reminders of the pain we endure to do what we love.
After dinner, I spend my nights alone on the front porch. Watching the sunset in the evenings makes me wonder what the next day will bring. If it wasn’t for the day’s work in blistering heat then the gusts of wind, ice-cold drinking water, and nightly showers wouldn’t feel so redeeming. The challenge from the natural world gives the outdoorsman purpose in life. Winning a fight with a redfish on the South Texas Flats from a kayak wouldn’t be as sweet a victory if the odds of catching the fish weren’t against you. If we choose to take the risk of the outdoor lifestyle, then we can become legends but only after we have earned the reward.
Me: “I am so glad I didn’t go a corporate route because now that I am here I know I for sure made the right decision. Looking back it felt difficult making the actual decision to become an entrepreneur, but now I can’t see myself being in an office.”
Captain: “You gave up a huge potential income and a certain lifestyle to be here. Around this time in my life, I begin to think about financial security. However, everyone else is looking out of the window in their office and wishing they had the lifestyle we have here. Being near the beach, spending every day outside, and making a living fishing and paddling is a dream come true.”