Paddle or Die


Photographer Pat Burke Frost

Photographer: Pat Burke Frost

Years ago, I  thought the phrase “Paddle or Die” was just a catchy slogan for a decal.   For thirty years, I took canoeing and kayaking for granted.  Before this, I had no hobbies and no outlets for the stresses of my daily life.  Once this “lifestyle” took hold, it morphed and took my life in many new and exciting directions.

     This journey started when I purchased a used 17 foot canoe.  I used this vessel to explore the swamps and waterways of Florida.  Every trip was different and exciting.  I decided to incorporated fishing into my new found love, that was it, I was hooked.  This was an endeavor that I could do alone or invite other people with common interests to join me.  It didn’t take much money and was not only a physical, it was also spiritual in nature.

     As my responsibilities mounted, I could not imagine life without being on the water.  Get to the “put in”, shove off, and let the decompression begin.  Incorporating fishing into this passion led me to the “kayak world”.  Kayaks were better suited for solo “missions” and spawned a primal feeling that I had never experienced before.

     My life revolved around kayaking .  New friends were made, new destinations were discovered.  If I wasn’t “out there”, I was day dreaming, discussing, or planning my next trip.  My employment was now just a tool that had to be done to  pay for the next chapter in my nautical book of life.   The day to day stresses seemed muffled, working was no longer a priority.

     Due to a life altering disability, Ankylosing Spondylitis, a debilitating inflammatory disease, I can no longer enjoy the serene hours on the water that I once did.  Small problems, that could be merely “paddled away”, now seem insurmountable.  I am reduced to sharing my passion through writing, it is a poor substitute, but it is all that I have.  Do not take this wonderful lifestyle for granted, embrace it and do it every chance you have.  There is only so much time in our lives. Paddle or Die!

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Paul Presson
Writter and visual artist
Paul is a 15 year veteran of the United States Air Force, a graduate of Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, logistics manager and US patented inventor. His real passion is for fishing and kayaking, which he no longer enjoys as much on account of living with ankylosing spondylitis, so he now shares his passion through writing and art.