The calm that comes from being on the water, quietly paddling a kayak to the next place you want to cast your fishing line, is a great way to find some peace. Kayak fishing provides a sense of well-being. The stressors of daily life melt away, leaving you with a feeling of serenity. It’s a sensation that everyone would like to have more of, and yet we don’t typically carve out time to ensure that we have it.  

The reality is that many of us view these types of activities as a luxury. They take away from our daily responsibilities and let’s face it – are focused on our own piece of mind. According to The American Institute of Stress approximately 33 percent of people report feeling extreme stress. 77 percent of people experience stress that affects their physical health. 73 percent of people have stress that impacts their mental health. The fact that we have an organization called The American Institute of Stress really speaks for itself.  

So why not focus more on mental well-being? At Heroes on the Water, we know that healing through the outdoors works. For 15 years, we have been utilizing kayak fishing to provide wellness and community to veterans, first responders and their families. Recently we completed the first round of a peer-reviewed official study. The results – well let’s just say amazing hardly describes the outcomes. 

Proof Positive That Mother Nature Heals

Did you know The VA has been using recreational therapy for their transitioning veterans since 1875? Why? Because they, like HOW, know it works. Veterans are a good focus group to test the efficacy of outdoor therapy. They have endured the rigors of military training, often with the overwhelm of combat that can trigger post-traumatic stress and severe anxiety. Following those events, this group then moves through the additional strain of reintegrating into civilian life.  

Other organizations have studied the positive impact of nature on our veterans. For example, PLoS One conducted two studies that proved veterans benefit from time outdoors, particularly when coupled with an activity like surfing or fishing. Recently, Heroes on the Water utilized participants in our Therapeutic Program to conduct our own study. There were three main focus areas – stress management, self-efficacy, and relationships.  

Delving into the stress management component of the study*, we validated that kayak fishing is an excellent way to alleviate stress and provide a simple way to combat anxiety. The results are positive and encouraging: 

Stress managemnet graphic showing study results

Make Wellness Work 

Everyone deserves some peace, some quiet time to relax and a means to reconnect with themselves and loved ones. Making time for yourself and your loved ones to enjoy the outdoors will yield positive results, both in the moment and after as you return to your daily life. 

At Heroes on the Water, our focus is to ensure that our heroes a space and place to commune and restore. If you want to make the impact of outdoor recreation go further, support our heroes by joining The Honor Circle. Become part of a community that believes in honoring our heroes for their service, using mother nature to heal and to provide continuous improvement to the lives of so many who give to protect our borders and maintain the peace. 

*Study will be published in full later in 2023.
Jackson, S.  & Winston, Joe. (2022, November). Operation Early Impact. [Conference presentation]. Therapeutic Recreation Symposium of the Southwest, In-Person Conference.
Additional references available upon request.   

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