If you love to fish, then you completely understand the passion so many have for this sport. If you don’t, or never have, fished, well, there are so many reasons to love it. For example, you get the calming influence of being on or near the water, and there is the competitive nature with just trying to catch that big fish.

And there are other benefits…

Studies have proven that fishing has benefits beyond just being outdoors, including:

  • The ability to focus on one activity, which is proven to decrease stress.
  • Lowering the impact of PTS symptoms, particularly when coupled with kayaking.
  • Spending time outdoors, which improves your mood and increases Vitamin D levels.

Recently, we caught up with Heroes on the Water’s own Nathan Franks, Director of Operations, to ask him why he thought fishing was so great, and why he continues to fish whenever he can.

“I grew up in a family that really enjoyed fishing,” said Nathan. “I was around 2 or 3 when I caught my first fish. My grandparents were part-owners of a bait shop by Lake Texoma, called Allen’s Bait Shop. My grandfather loved to fish, so after he retired from the Air Force, he fulfilled his dream.

“I would go to local farm ponds as a boy, along with a couple of good friends. We would fish every weekend,” Nathan added. “Until I went to college, that is, and found other interesting things to do, like attending parties and girls.”

Nathan has fished for most his life, which is not necessarily a given just because you grew up in a fishing family.

“I really love that you get out and away, disengaged from everything else,” said Nathan. “Plus, you never know what you are going to catch. It’s like the lottery. It could be that nice 10 pound bass that gets your adrenaline pumping. Or it could be an 8” fish. Not knowing what’s in store makes it more fun.”

It was natural that Nathan picked up kayak fishing, primarily because of his love of the water.

“When my buddy and I would fish on those ponds, we used john boats or canoes,” said Nathan. “You are always wondering what’s on the other side, or in that little cove, that might yield even better fish. Since my dad had a kayak, I was already used to it. Putting the two together was a natural.”

Nathan enjoys aspects of kayak fishing that are different from other types of boats, primarily because of the access and experience.

“One of the first purchases my wife and I made was a power boat, which we chose over taking a honeymoon. We both love being on the water,” said Nathan. “When it comes to kayak fishing, though, the experience is different – more intimate – than a power boat. While I love being able to go fast, I love the personal experience I get from kayak fishing.”

Nathan’s love of fishing and kayaking making working with Heroes on the Water a natural fit for him.

“I was with the team that started the HOW chapter in Washington State. I was a military spouse and just getting ready to go away for my own Army training when we made the decision to move forward,” said Nathan. “I had seen first-hand the impact of PTS, and also the positive impact of kayak fishing. Knowing I could take my passion for the sport and introduce someone else to help them was exciting for me.”

Nathan’s decision to apply for, and ultimately become, the director of operations stemmed from his various but pertinent experience.

“My wife got orders to PCS to Fort Hood, so I had to quite my full time National Guard job of managing two programs for the State of Washington. When the opportunity arose to work with the national team and provide insights from my experience, it seemed like a natural fit,” said Nathan. “I really wanted to come in and help expand the mission.”

The ability to make a difference for so many, while still balancing the needs of a growing organization, can create challenges. Yet Nathan remains positive and focused, primarily because of his love for the organization.

“We have some of the best volunteers who have hearts in the right place. Our ability to execute on our mission really keeps me going,” said Nathan. “When you see new attendees show up in an almost zombie-like state and leave with a smile, knowing they’ve found their brotherhood / sisterhood, it’s a truly rewarding experience.”

He went on to say “One thing about the military is you move so much, you end up losing touch with friends, and sometimes family. You create a new family in the military, so being able to recreate that for our heroes is amazing. It gets me out of bed every day.”

Nathan has merged his love of fishing, kayaking and the military into a purpose – to put heroes on the water. You don’t have to love fishing, or kayaking, to join us in ensuring that we provide free therapeutic kayak fishing trips for our military veterans, active duty and families. You can help us love what we do by simply donating, or volunteering.

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