No Longer a Newbie E-mail
Written by Ryan Barker   
Sunday, 19 July 2015 00:00

rbark10 It's New Year’s, which is a time of reflection over the year. Truthfully, every day is a good time to reflect upon the past but, New Year’s is special in the sense that you are given an artistic license to get cheesy and poetic about it. And that is what I am going to do today. I am going to be grossly cheesy, and possibly turn in my man-card temporarily. But I am cool with that.

Over the last decade I have struggled with many challenges of being a deaf man in a society designed for hearing people only. I grew up in a school for the deaf, in which I could communicate seamlessly with all my friends, participate in activities as an equal, and meet new people with ease. Once I moved on from that to an environment in which I could not communicate with others. I ended up with a lot of challenges as consequence, and started having many issues.

I started trying to figure out how I can please everyone around me, my family, and keep everyone happy with having me around despite the challenges inherent in my disability. This turned out to be one of the bigger mistakes I made, and took me many years to break free of that mentality. I made a decision that no one should be allowed to control my life and my actions just because I am deaf. Once I made that decision, there were still some struggles trying to balance things but I eventually figured things out pretty well.

rbark1 rbark3

A part of that decision led to me starting to find hobbies of my own, hobbies that make me happy. I got back into fishing. I started out fishing at Del Valle from the shore, and not catching anything. That was OK with me. But it wasn't enough. I didn't want to be on shore, I wanted to be floating freely on the water.

Me and my puppy rented an boat at Del Valle and went out fishing. She would help me fish as my lookout for a catch. And did some fishing of her own too. Still I did not catch anything, but I was closer to being happy. Eventually we caught our first fish, a bass. And I do mean "we" because I could not have done it without her. I was poorly equipped to land the fish, and lost control of it after I got it in the kayak. It flopped out, and she leapt out after it. She caught it before it went into the water, and paddled back to me. Go Team!It cost entirely too much to rent a boat regularly, so I looked around for different options. I concluded that it should be either a Canoe or Kayak.

After much debate, I ended up buying a Old Town Predator 13 and discovered the Nor Cal Kayak Anglers forum board and club. I've been around other forums before, so I figured that NCKA was just another forum of complete strangers who sometimes help each other. Boy, would I come to be so wrong.

I started paying more attention to NCKA at this point. I saw all the things everyone was catching, and was very jealous. I started to build up to the decision to venture out into the ocean, and contacted the first NCKA person I would meet – Santa Cruz Kayak Fishing guide Bushy (Allen Bushnell). He guided me around Santa Cruz Harbor, showed me all the rules, talked about safety, and showed me how to rig my poles for fishing various species.

rbark9 I would find my first Lingcod (pictured). I was hooked on saltwater fishing. Completely, utterly hooked. No going back anymore. I had a fantastic time.  I would venture out a week or two later on my own. It was a very foggy day, and I was afraid to move away from shore. And ended up with the hookup of a lifetime for a newbie like me:

Thresher Shark! Boy, was I poorly prepared to deal with catching one. I released it, and resolved to learn more about proper handling of various species of fish. And how to catch and release properly. Still, it was definitely the experience of a lifetime for me. Watching it jump around like that was incredible!

I would later meet up with FishWorks and head to the Alameda Rock Wall, where I would catch a big, 48" Leopard Shark. I released this guy as well. At this point I was very confused, as I had 2 shark catches and only one Lingcod in the ocean. I started wondering how people avoid catching shark. I would come to realize it was just luck. The next month or two was full of catching more fish.

 

Then I asked my younger brother, Matt (Chewbacca) if he would like to fish with me. HELL YES was the answer. He was jealous of all the fishing I was doing!

Matt in the Titanic of Kayaks. We'd only need him to hit something the size of an ice cube for him to sink. We had to celebrate this reunion of brothers in the best way possible, some manly drinking and chest thumping. Then a few months pass by with more fishing, mostly catching Lingcod.

rbark11 I'd end up with my biggest Lingcod ever at 30" and 14.5#. I found a new sense of tranquility and serenity on the ocean that was missing from so much of my life. All the things that seemed so major and life-pressing and urgent just simply melted away. I slept more easily at night, I had stories to tell the people around me, and I saw scenery that took my breath away.

Through NCKA and kayak fishing, I was able to start talking to my father once again. We spoke as father and son for the first time in years, rather than as a boss and employee. Today our relationship is the best it's ever been in years.

Through NCKA and kayak fishing, I was able to reconnect with my brother, with whom we've had so many adventures together in our life.

Through NCKA and kayak fishing, I was able to start bringing a balance into my life, between work, fun, and family.

It would be around this time that I ended up at the Kayak Connection Derby in Santa Cruz CA, and met many people from NCKA who were awesome. I won 3rd place, and got a new PFD for my brother. I also met a couple really cool NCKA people that I now fish with regularly. They led me out to a new place where I had the most epic day ever, catching approximately 16 Lingcod in a single day. Incredible. I would go on to fish with them many more times and have many more incredible days.

rbark14 rbark16 rbark19

rbark13

Through NCKA and kayak fishing, I was able to reconnect with many deaf people who would become friends of mine.

Through NCKA and fishing, my father got the bug and ended up buying a 45' sailboat to fish for Wahoo at his home in St. Croix.

Through NCKA and kayak fishing, I found a sense of peace in my life for the first time in 10 years.

I have a lot to be grateful for over the year of 2014. It will be hard to top it in 2015, but you bet your ass I will be trying my best. I hope to meet many more of you and continue having a fantastic time.

Thanks for the good times, NCKA, and for being an awesome community.

 

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