YOLO Board is a company which makes Stand Up Paddleboards and so much more and is based in Florida and California. As kayak angling grows, anglers are looking for new ways to get on the water using SUP’s or Stand Up Paddleboards. Dustin Schouest shares with us how he came to grow into the YOLO lifestyle, and he’s sharing his newfound passion.
“So what is YOLO?” The person speaking was a foot taller than I, with tattoos adorning his torso and arms, sporting a hat from a fishing company. He had fished Ride the Bull like I had, and as had many other paddlers, the wind and waves had kicked his butt. I was across from him manning the booth for Muddy Water Paddle Company of Baton Rouge, the premiere dealer of YOLO Boards in Louisiana.
The question was one I had to ponder for a few minutes. Being that I was relatively new to the YOLO lifestyle, I was still learning about it. You see, the YOLO style of paddleboards aren’t just a brand. With it comes a change of ideals. With the embrace of your work of fiberglass art also comes a new sense of adventure. Of new beginnings. Of places uncharted. And of limitless possibilities.
Once upon a time I was a kayaker, lugging around a 60 to 80 pound piece of plastic with a fixed seat, fixed storage system, and stability that still left me feeling vulnerable. My kayak was a fine piece of fishing machinery do not get me wrong, but, it just felt…confining. Claustrophobic, for lack of a better word. The cockpit was roomy in a way, but I still felt confined by high gunnels, a center console, and a tankwell that would only accept a certain size ice chest or milk crate. I kept my rig fairly simple, only occasionally adorning her with a depth finder or a camera mount. I never got anything complicated like many of these kayaks now have. And it seems the industry, not in a bad way, has begun to try to get more and more bells and whistles on kayaks. From motors and cutting boards to giant storage compartments and seats that go up and down. To me, this takes something from kayak fishing that sold me on it in the beginning. Simplicity.
There was a time where fishing kayaks were just regular kayaks with a few special modifications the angler added to make fishing a bit easier. The boats were less small fishing boats and more plastic shells with an angler inside. And I feel the kayak fishing world has begun to forget these humble beginnings. With these gizmos and gadgets in the cockpit and around it also comes hang ups for the fly fisherman. Any kayak fly fisherman will tell you nothing will make you more angry than missing a shot at a tailing redfish or blitzing speckled trout than making a false cast and having your fly line get caught in a foot peg. And I can say from experience, this frustration will bring you to tears on a difficult day on the water.
“Well,” I began to my fellow angler across from me, “it’s all about simplicity. Your board is a blank canvas of fiberglass and foam padding. No big gunnels. No center console. Not even a rod holder. If you want something on your YOLO Board, you either buy it or make it. The most complicated thing about SUP fishing is the paddle, as the paddle is specific to paddleboards. So, YOLO is simplicity and not complication.” I got a nod from my friend. I could see the wheels turning in his head. He had seen the bait and given it a whiff.
After I sold my kayak, I got my YOLO Board and paddle. The first thing I realized driving from purchasing her was how simple this was: a 35 pound board was so much easier cartopping than a 60 or 80 pound kayak. I had already broken a mirror trying to take down my old kayak, and my Explorer’s top had the scratches from trying to get the behemoth onto it by myself. After those incidents I had resolved to use trailers for transporting my kayaks. But, with a single axel trailer comes the “thrill” of backing in the suckers to the ramp or driveway. If you have never had the displeasure of using small trailers, understand that these puppies turn on a dime, and can jackknife quicker than you can shout expletives at the new hole in the side of your car. With this new convenience was the realization that I could more easily keep the paddleboard on my truck and do small quick paddles after work at my convenience. With a front bayou full of bull bream and bass, the ability to unwind with a quick float and some fly fishing fun was such a plus.
“Not only is my board as complicated as I chose to make it,” I continued, “but it’s so light that I carry it with me everywhere I go, even work! I get off from work, and I can have that puppy in the water and out fishing in ten minutes after pulling up to a spot. No more worrying about a trailer, or manhandling a heavy kayak from a roof rack. Lemme ask you something bro, how much does your kayak weigh?” He took a moment to ponder. “Uh, about fifty five pounds. Why?” This was his response. I pointed to the board of Randy Lachey tied up not far from us. “What if I told you that paddleboard is thirty-five pounds dripping wet?” I got wide eyes and a dropped jaw from the gentlemen across from me. “YOLO is convenience, and not letting anything stop you from getting on the water.” He had taken a bite of the bait.
I had used many kayaks up to this point, and each had their own stability issues. My Heritage had no chines and a flat bottom, making standing close to impossible. My Ride had two chines in the hull but also had a cramped cockpit for standing up in. My Hobie had limited room as well thanks to much of the Cockpit being dedicated to the Mirage Drive. Upon getting on a paddleboard for the first time, Erin Sullavin and the aforementioned Randy, both amazing paddleboarders and associates of Muddy Water, told me that I would get the hang of a paddleboard quickly as long as I took my time standing for the first time. They got me on my knees paddling along behind them, and even in choppy surf, I felt invincible. “When you go to stand,” Randy briefed me, “DO NOT hesitate. Stare straight ahead, use the paddle as a third leg, and just stand.” His words were right. Ten minutes after being on my knees, I was standing up, and paddling straight into the waves, with my new friends cheering at me. With this feeling of stability came confidence in my abilities. After a few trips on the board I felt comfortable enough to lay down on it, and even do basic yoga while waiting for a bite. And with my ice chest on the stern, I felt comfortable and confident enough to just sit on the hard plastic and paddle or fish. And as my confidence grew, I even learned I could stand on my ice chest and treat it like a poling platform.
“Beyond all that even is the comfort and stability that these boards offer the paddler!” I was really hyped up now, seeing that my testimonial was hitting this kayaker like a Mike Tyson punch, or ear bite. “Once I got my sea legs, I felt unstoppable! The stability on these boards is unreal. After a few minutes, I was standing, walking forward and aft, and even somersaulting off of the board into the water, and guess what: the board never flipped or tipped! This baby gave me confidence and determination. So to me, YOLO is also conquering fear in order to have fun. YOLO is confidence in the stability of your board, and of yourself.” The kayaker gave me curt nods with lots of energy. The hook was in the corner of his mouth
I had met the Muddy Water guys through my friends Jared and Kalley LeRoy, long time paddleboarders and kayak anglers. Most of the paddleboarders I had met thanks to them were complete strangers up till one fateful weekend in Grand Isle. I had paddled alongside Troy Archer, the owner of Muddy Water, Erin, Patrick Ledet, Donnie Bodreaux, Reid Neilson, Randy, and Dee Holcombe while I was in my kayak, and I was fascinated by how close knit they seemed. They had a kinship forged around these beautiful boards. And when I finally got on one for the first time, I felt warm embraces from them all, and a level of acceptance that I had never felt before. The way they talked to me, let me speak, and even acted around me showed me something I had never had before. Fellowship. As the months went by they would teach me more and more, invite me to events, share drinks with me, share tips with me, and we all would grow closer. Finally Randy gave us his paddle and the kayaker and I walked down to the board tied up alongside the slip. Before he got on, he wanted a demonstration and some wise words. “Getting on is not as hard as it seems” I spoke as I effortlessly stepped from concrete to fiberglass, the board not even moving in the water. I turned without any fear to him, and now his wife behind him. “You can set your board on the water and either wade out to it, or step onto it. It’s how you choose.”
I grabbed the paddle up and demonstrated the proper stroke. “Unlike a kayak, you are not scooping water. You are digging into the water and moving it, propelling the kayak forward. Instead of pulling the paddle towards you, you are pushing and pulling at the same time, bending your core.” I demonstrated a stroke as a few others watched now. Randy had come and began to speak as well. “You will feel your hamstrings and leg muscles go crazy for a little bit, but that is because you are using muscles you never knew you had.” I nodded and added on. “As well as that, every paddle stroke uses more muscles than a kayak stroke. You use your forearms, biceps, shoulders, core, hamstrings, and ankles. It is the single best workout you can ever get.”
The kayaker and I traded spots on the YOLO board. He slowly got onto it, quickly adjusting to the stability of the fiberglass. On his knees he felt the hull move under him as he rocked. Within a few minutes he had stood up, and was paddling about, with his wife, Randy, and I cheering and offering encouragement. “What you are doing right now bro,” I concluded, “That is YOLO. Its excitement, confidence, and simplicity! It is a good time! It is what you make of it.” The smile on the kayaker’s face said it all, and as he came back in, the enjoyment in his eyes said it all. “Guys,” He spoke in the same way a child would after having ridden on a rollercoaster, “I think you guys just sold me on getting a board soon! This is so much fun.” We all rallied around him nodding, shaking hands and small man hugs.
“That is YOLO bro,” I concluded. “You Only Live Once. You have to enjoy it and live your life to its fullest extent. That is our life. And it will change yours for the better. It will take your life in a whole different direction.
About the Author
Dustin Schouest is a veteran angler from the small disappearing village of Pointe Aux Chenes, La. When not fishing, Dustin is usually found tying flies, editing video, or writing about his adventures from his YOLO Stand Up Paddleboard. He is a member of the Hook1 Fishing Team as well as a member of Team Filthy Anglers.