As a very young boy, John Stapleton spent his time barefooted, running through pastures in East Texas fishing one stock pond to another. He comes from a family who enjoyed fishing as a peaceful pastime, although they did not fish frequently.
“When I was a boy, you could run around along for hours, so I would ride my bike, fishing pole in tow, and fish all day,” says John. “We lived in deep East Texas, so I had plenty of access to streams and ponds.”
John remembers fondly those fishing trips with family, especially his grandmother in West Texas.
“My grandmother and I would sit by the Concho River with cane poles and a can of corn,” says John. “We fished for perch, and she would just sit and giggle all day.”
Outdoor Wellness – A Path to Peace
Fishing quickly became a way for John to stay young, and then later to relax and decompress as he navigated his life as first a military “brat” to currently serving with 19 years of military service.
“I’ve gone on six deployments, and couldn’t fish while deployed,” says John. “As soon as I was home, that was one of the first things on my list. I was fortunate to recognize the benefits of fishing early on.”
It was during one of his home visits that he found kayak fishing. John was fishing off piers in Galveston when a friend suggested they try it. At that time, he was fishing two to three times a week on average.
“I started fishing in local tournaments and fished in one that benefitted Heroes on the Water,” says John. “That was when I met Joe Winston, and we quickly connected on HOW’s mission.”
That mission, to provide wellness and community to our heroes and their families through kayak fishing and the outdoors, led to John leading the Heroes on the Water Galveston chapter.
“Being out on the water in a kayak resets your mind,” says John. “The fishing is a bonus.”
Mission Focus – Quality over Quantity
John and his leadership team want every event to be mission focused and to ensure that every event has a positive, powerful impact.
“We actually provide a lot of one-on-one trips for our community,” says John. “Our bigger events are great. We also want to serve in the best way possible, so we take out one or two people at a time when requested.”
This is not a fishing guide scenario, but something that John and his team provide to expand the wellness aspects of kayak fishing.
“We want to meet our community where they are and provide the best opportunity to relax and be comfortable,” says John. “There is no pressure. We strive for quality over quantity and bringing the healing aspects to our community in the best way possible.”
The Key Ingredient – Immerse in Nature
The primary component to providing a therapeutic environment is to fully experience the outdoors without interference. Kayaks provide that immersive quality because they are quiet, close to the water, and place the person in the environment, rather than outside as a spectator.
“Everything in a kayak has a slightly more profound effect,” says John. “You are more aware of your surroundings.”
Paddling through the water helps reset your mind, according to John.
“I see our participants change after time on the water. They stop worrying so much.”
As John and the HOW Galveston volunteer team look forward to the upcoming season, they are grateful to have more opportunities to serve.
“We are a full capacity as far as equipment and are prepared for both our regularly scheduled group events as well as more one-on-one experiences,” says John. “Our team is ready to get on the water to provide the wellness experience of kayak fishing in the Galveston area.”
Heroes on the Water is a 501(c)3 that is dedicated to serving our U.S. military veterans, active-duty, law enforcement, first responders and their families. Want to support chapters like Galveston? Join the Honor Circle today!