by Brian Vincent
On Saturday morning I awoke in Farmville around 6 am, threw some coffee down my gullet, grabbed my camera and headed to Hampton. The inaugural, Appomattox River Company, Rigging Contest and Chili Cook Off was set to go down at the Tidewater store. I had been tasked with documenting this burgeoning event. It felt like a great opportunity to learn about a faction of kayaking that I have a deep interest in, but very little knowledge. If you have been following this blog, you know that my introduction to kayaking came through whitewater and while I have begun branching out more and more, I have yet to fish from a kayak. After attending this event, it will not be long now! I got a fishing license the next day, something I haven't done in many years.
Tom Vanderheiden, Tidewater Chapter Coordinator for Heroes on the Water, and his wife, Debbie (acclaimed cake maker) provided the above deliciousness. If you do not support HOW yet, you should. After growing up an Army brat and KIA dependent, organizations like HOW always generate strong feelings of gratitude and respect.
Yak Attack owner, Luther Ciphers, showed up and supplied the 1st Place prize for the Rigging Contest, his Yak Attack BlackPak crate. If you don't know, Luther is the inventor of innumerable, genius, kayak fishing creations and he is based in Farmville. All 11 kayaks in the Rigging Contest, and every one of the other display boats, were adorned with Yak Attack products.
A number of local kayak fishing pros were in attendance; Mark Lozier withÂ Native Watercraft and 1st Landing Kayak Fishing Services, Chuck Wrenn with Hobie Fishing Team, Mark Wheeler with Jackson Kayak and Rob Choi with Ocean Kayak and Yak Attack. As a recreation enthusiast who has enjoyed rock climbing, whitewater kayaking, trail running, skiing, hiking and mountain biking, there is always some trepidation when walking among a different outdoor user group. The jargon is different, there is some gear ignorance and you just generally feel out of the loop. This was not the case with these kayak fishing folks. I found all the anglers to be very friendly, knowledgable and open. The whole event was populated with quality people and all the kayaks were sweet! It was cool being able to cruise the different rigs and pick up tips for outfitting a boat.
There was also a spirited Chili Cook Off, which I helped judge. The competition was tough. I had such a hard time deciding that I had to taste each chili twice, they were so good! 1st Place went to Kris Lozier, who won a $75 Gift Certificate to ARC. The rest of the results can be found on the Facebook event page.
The Rigging Contest was just as tight. There were so many great rigged kayaks. Tony won the Yak Attack Black Pak and he almost didn't show up for the contest. Apparently he had to be convinced to enter!
Chuck Wrenn who won 2nd in the Rigging Contest donated the Fly Rod package prize ( donated by Hurricane Pro Staffer William Ragulsky) to Heroes on the Water to raffle. We raffled it on the spot and raised a quick $61, and Tony Hatcher won that too!
It was a pretty cool little grassroots event. A big congratulations to Vic, the ARC-Hampton store manager, and all the staff for pulling this thing together. Thanks to Yak Attack for sponsoring the event. A big thanks for all who came out. It was great meeting so many good Tidewater folks. I grew up in the Hampton Roads area, so it was awesome visiting my old stomping grounds for this event. I realized that I had missed out on taking advantage of the great coastal recreation opportunities available to me growing up. I look forward to playing catch up.
As I talked with various people, a craving began to take hold. I wanted to experience the adrenaline of hooking into a big catch, out on the open water, in a kayak. It was happening. Once again, I found myself immersed in a new outdoor recreation world, marveling at the common passion that permeates all such pursuits and deciding that I had to get in on the action. I love outdoor people. No matter the specific jargon, gear or element, one thing is the same in every corner of recreation, the desire to get outside. At the 1st Annual ARC Rigging Contest & Chili Cook Off, I found families, couples, friends and acquaintances all sharing their passion for the water. I scanned the crowd following the awards presentation and the raffles and saw smiles on everyones face. Gentle and not so gentle heckling could be heard floating through the air. People shook hands and planned for the evening fishing expedition to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.
As I gathered my things for the trip back to Farmville, one of my new friends asked, "You coming out tonight, the fishing is going to be good."
It was all I thought about during my three hour drive. I won't miss that opportunity again.