Freedom Kayaks

Years later, I was paddling up the North Channel just at the tip of Dickerson Island, an Island close to Harsens. I remember drifting along the shore, taking in the scenery, thinking, and an image popped into my head. This is not unusual for me. Just ask anyone who knows me. The image was of a person and a ‘system’ of how one could re-enter a kayak if they did not have the use of their legs. I remember thinking about this for the rest of the paddle. Some time had passed, and I found myself drifting around with this idea still rolling around in my head. I have made some inquiries about what was out their for this type of kayak, but that was about it.

It was in October 04’ when I went to work one day and in my paycheck envelope was a check and a note stating that my job was begin terminated. At first, to tell you the truth, I was relieved, as I could use some time off. Later, I remember walking into my woodshop wondering what my next move in life would be. I stood in front of one of my kayaks, with this image still in my head, and I thought to myself, well Eric, you have the time know! Just do it.

I started in October of that year. Building my image . . building, taking apart, making mistakes, re-building, making more mistakes. And, finally in January it was done. I remember being proud of myself. Proud of what I had accomplished. And, then it dawned on me, “Who is this for?” At that time, I had no friends or family that had a challenge. Well, it was done anyway . . I thought.

Then, I made inquiries about using an indoor pool (it’s a little icy in Michigan in January). A local scuba shop agreed to let me try out my invention there. All was set. Later in that week, I was walking into a local food market and a guy whizzed buy me in a wheel chair. I remember saying to myself . . get up the nerve to introduce yourself and tell him what you were doing and ask if he would like to try it out. As soon as I turned to get my cart, he was gone. I looked up and down some of the isles, but he was not to be found. I thought to myself, “I lost my chance.” And, yes I was feeling a little like a stalker. When I was done shopping, I was checking out and glanced over a couple of isles . . and there he was checking out also. On the way out to the parking lot, I turned my cart toward his van and introduced myself. (Later I found out that I scared the ‘’’’’’ out of him). I was in full Carhart gear, and I’m not a small person to begin with. I began telling him what I was doing, and asked him if he would like to try kayaking. He agreed with excitement! Tom is his name. He is my good friend now and a kayaker.

Tom and I had numerous pool sessions -- me learning from him and Tom learning how to kayak. After miles of tweaking, bending and re-building I had a basic system that worked! And, in the meantime, Tom was paddling around like a veteran. During one session, Tom was paddling around in the pool and I was in the pool taking pictures, and he stopped in front of me, and I asked him what was the first thing that he thought about in my kayak. He answered “Freedom”! And, that’s how the “Freedom Kayaks” name came about.

Eventually, it became apparent that Tom wanted to paddle farther that the confines of the pool walls. It was late in May 05’, a bright sunny morning when Tom and I went on our open water paddle together; it was his first paddle ever. The day was great! We paddled from the Algonac launch (across the river from Harsens) through a couple islands and back to the launch. I remember looking at him with a grin on my face jokingly saying, ‘Tom I’m disappointed in you, because you did not flip over once”. Tom replied, “Sorry I will try better next time!” haha… I remember realizing at that time that I finally figured what I was going to do when I grow up, adaptive kayaking building and teaching. It has taken me over 40 years to figure this out and fell like my journey in life is just starting!
Thats my story, Eric Mueller”