“You can never repay what many of our veterans and their families have given up, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try. We want to do something in a small way for people who have done so much for all of us. It’s a small payment on a large debt.” ~ Luther Cifers, Founder and President, YakAttack, LLC
We all love those small ideas, the ones that started in someone’s garage or basement, that blossom into amazing organizations. YakAttack is certainly one of those stories, with an added storyline – the belief that being a good citizen, a good steward, and a good company starts with doing something to give back.
Luther Cifers did not begin his career with kayak fishing in mind. He spent the first decade and a half working in manufacturing. From an entry level position on an automotive components factory floor, he eventually worked his way into an engineering role, tasked primarily with machine design. From there he spent several years doing various contract engineering projects – designing everything from women’s shoes to tow trucks.
Meanwhile, he and a group of friends participated in an annual shark fishing trip on The Outer Banks. It was during one of these trips that Luther first experienced kayaking.
“My buddy did some research on how to get heavy baits out from the surf, and found the guys in Texas were using kayaks. He bought a Hobie Outback and brought it with us on our next trip and it worked great,” said Luther. “We didn’t fish out of it, but each of us took it out a few times. I really thought the experience was cool. A year later that same friend called and told me he had found a group of local anglers that were fishing out of kayaks. I had never heard of kayak fishing. Back then there were only pockets of people doing it, unlike today. Eventually, he convinced me to buy a fishing kayak.”
His first trip “hooked” him. He called his wife to share how amazing the experience was, and decided to purchase a kayak for his son.
“It’s just that kind of sport. It pulls you in,” said Luther.
Luther and his buddy started striper fishing from their kayaks at night, and quickly learned they needed to have lighting for safety. From the love of kayak fishing to needing to be safe sprouted that first product idea – the VisiPole.
“We made a really basic light out of a scuba light and some PVC pipe, but it caught on,” said Luther. “People started asking for them. We knew we were on to something so we created more, and got more sophisticated with the designs as time went on.”
From Passion to Purpose
Their basic VisiPole was well received, and through some retooling became the VisiCarbon Pro – a product that really took off!
His friend had decided to move on from the business, but Luther felt that with the right amount of effort, YakAttack had the potential to turn into something great. After a conversation with his with wife, he ramped up his efforts with the fledgling company, while winding down his consulting company, Cifers Solutions. By 2012, YakAttack was a full time business.
Just like all budding businesses, YakAttack underwent challenges, particularly since Luther was not acquainted with many outdoor industry people. He did know how to solve problems, however, and was very good at listening to his customers which contributed to the company’s success.
It was in those early days that Luther was introduced to Heroes on the Water through a mutual friend.
“Jim Dolan reached out to me because he needed some flags, so we put together the flags and donated them,” said Luther. “It wasn’t a marketing thing. It was just something we wanted to do. At the time, we asked to remain anonymous, but before long we knew we wanted to get more involved.”
For years YakAttack has been a loyal HOW supporter, providing annual donations and continuing to support the organization.
“We’re just doing the same thing most citizens want to do. We appreciate our veterans and would like to show them the love and support they deserve. The challenge is often finding the right way to channel that support,” said Luther. “Sometimes it’s hard to find ways to get involved, and even if you do, you may not know where the money is really going or how the organization is being run. HOW is very transparent. The work they do is evident. I’ve heard first hand accounts from people that told me the program saved their lives. That’s powerful stuff.”
YakAttack’s tournament to benefit Heroes on the Water will be held in Burkeville, VA in May. Each year the tournament provides an opportunity for YakAttack and others to give back.
“You can never repay what many of our veterans and their families have given up, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try,” said Luther. “We want to do something in a small way for people who have done so much for all of us. It’s a small payment on a large debt.”
The tournament is capped at 175 entrants, and sells out every year – In 2016 it took 2 months. In 2017, it took just a few hours. Luther believes the popularity is due to several reasons:
“We keep it personal. Our team and my family still cooks and serves the participants. We keep it a manageable size to ensure that community feel. Most importantly, the people who attend show up with big hearts and give generously. They do that because they love our veterans. It’s a beautiful thing, and it’s straight from the heart.”
The team at Heroes on the Water is grateful to Luther and the YakAttack team, as well as all the tournament participants. It’s through the heart-led efforts of people like this that we are able to improve the lives of those who have given so much. Because fine folks like you are willing to donate, we can support our nation’s veterans and active-duty military through the power of therapeutic kayak fishing. Please consider donating today and help us put Heroes on the Water!