Warriors Gone Fishin’

Jacksonville, Fla.'s Dave McDaid reaches his paddle out to vets

It’s easy to just throw a “Support Our Troops” sticker on your bumper. It’s another thing entirely, however, to throw serious time and energy into providing real support. Dave McDaid, founder and owner of paddling apparel company Irish Water Dogs, decided to make a difference for wounded and disabled military veterans most in need of some R&R by bringing them the peace and calm of a day spent kayaking.

Sunday marked the second annual Irish Water Dogs/Wounded Warrior Kayaking Trip hosted at outfitter Kayak Amelia in Jacksonville, Fla. Hooking up with the Wounded Warrior Project, headquartered out of Jacksonville, McDaid put together the IWD/WW kayak trips for wounded or disabled military service men and women. Irish Water Dogs volunteers also represent the Northeast Florida Chapter of Heroes on the Water, a program dedicated to rehabilitation through kayak fishing. (Click HERE to learn more about Heroes on the Water.)

“Since this is such a military town, we wanted to do something for the veterans,” McDaid says. “To get them out on the water, the calming and healing effect of paddling and fishing is really great.”

McDaid and his crew guided groups of vets around for about four straight hours of fishing on Simpson Creek because, according to McDaid, these are the type of guys who won’t tell you if they’re getting tired. The crew of kayak angler volunteers showed the vets the basics of angling, simple kayak skills, and then let them catch what they could. After the day on the water, they were treated to an old-fashioned cookout where they shared tales of the monster red fish or flounder that just barely got away.

“Some of the best therapy I get is being outdoors, especially in the water,” said Josh Wofford, veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. “Fishing and kayaking together is just incredible, we all had blast. I’m going to do as many of these as they let me.”

The event was hosted by Kayak Amelia, an outfitter and kayak rental service that supports many of IWD events, while Dick’s Sporting Goods lent rod-and-reel combos. After this second kayak fishing/Wounded Warrior trip, McDaid said he plans to organize about 10 a year.

“The best thing about it is to see the guys transform from benefactors or guests at the beginning of the day, to just fishing buddies, all smiles, hanging out and having a good time by the end,” says McDaid, whose Jacksonville-based company grew from a simple blog promoting kayaking and outdoor adventure into an outdoor apparel company that still focuses on creating a diverse array if outdoor events that bring people together.

These events are all about connection: fishing and kayaking, man and nature, veteran and veteran, calm and peace. To McDaid and the IWD crew, this is just their way of saying thanks and giving back to those who give us the freedom to do the things we love.  — Sean Klinger

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Add a Comment

  • http://www.irishwaterdogs.com Dave McDaid

    I would like to thank Sean, Dave and Nick for all their wonderful help with this article and the support it offers us as we try to get the word out to our local injured warriors in North Florida.

    The real strength of our program are the incredible volunteers that show up to offer everything they can to help our local heroes. Our amazing TeamIWD members, Charlie, Scott, Jim and their families who donate so much to make sure our local heroes are taken care of.

    For them all I am incredibly grateful.
    Dave.

  • http://www.HeroesOnTheWater.org Jim Dolan

    Thanks, Dave, for getting these guys and gals on the water. Seeing a couple of Dad’s with their kids yak fishing is incredibly cool!!

    Jim
    President
    Heroes on the Water

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