Do you sometime’s feel like you still have to figure out who you really are? Like there are still parts of you to put in display and unleash your full potential. What’s holding you back? Fear, opportunities or maybe, like Bill Ennis, is it just a matter of finding it. It’s not like his live was sad and empty. Between raising 5 kids and being involved with the scouts and a variety of community activities with the church he’s an active member of he was busy, engaged and certainly connected but without even knowing it, a piece of the puzzle was missing, the one where he was taking care of and creating happiness for himself.
Bill had a graphic design business. Being self-employed, you often have to work long hours but after the last recession, despite the long hours and the hard work, money was hard to come by.
“I was either scrambling for debts, scrambling to meet deadlines, scrambling to pick up work. It was 18 hour days of work or try to find work. With my wife, we were trying to see how we could improve our situation. We put together these vision boards. We had them up in the bathroom and she got upset at me. She was like, your vision board is just a freaking vacation. There needs to be money and houses plans, where’s your real vision board.”
Unconsciously, Bill’s board was a reflection of what he needed. The images of the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park, a kayak, some good times, were just reflecting his need to wind down and connect with nature.
“In 2007, around that time someone gave us a two-man kayak, a big eighty pounds sit-on-top. I threw it in the water and within 10 seconds, I felt like I was in a different universe, in the very best way. In fact, we put in right here at Quail Creek with one of my best friends. It was totally transformative.”
They starting going on the water regularly. Their friends also got one and the two families would go on outings together and they’d take family and friends out to try it out.
“Michelle and I started talking about getting a little fleet so that we could just go out and have fun with more people. We were not thinking about monetizing it, we just wanted to have that as a hobby and charge enough to make it worth it.”
Their mind was made up. Bill and his wife booked a trip to Outdoor Retailer in Salt Lake City to buy some kayaks and make their idea happen. While the on water demo was happening they saw people on vessels they had never tried or even considered.
“We were offered to try out SUP. We both looked at each other thinking, what’s the big deal? It looked slow and we were not that interested. We got on and were blown away. We didn’t get in any of the kayaks for the rest of the day. We were pretty happy on the board. It’s physically, emotionally and even intellectually engaging on a level that surpasses what you get flat water kayaking. I don’t know why it is but that’s how it seems to me.”
They came back from that days with kayaks AND stand-up paddleboards, quite pleased with their purchase. Then, the adventure began. Boards and boats got stored in Bill’s work space. Soon enough, the fleet took over making it hard to do anything else in there. The first impact Dig Paddlesports had on Bill was help him decompress and deal with day-to-day issues.
“When I get back into creative projects after going for a paddle, I feel like I can just tackle that job, I can solve problems better, I can think more clearly, I can think faster, I’m more fully engaged and present, even after I’m off the water for that day and it seems like it lasts for about a day. After 3-4 day, I start feeling grumpy if I haven’t paddled.”
Slowly but surely, Dig Paddlesports grew to become their main business. Today, they have two on-water locations in Southern Utah and look forwards to hot summers in the desert again. Paddling has not only been a way to provide for their family, to Michelle’s admission, it also saved their marriage. The gruelling stresses and lack of joy in their previous life had them grown disconnected as a couple and as a family.
“I didn’t think we were disconnected. I really thought that grind was just part of building the business and I was doing it for my family. Deep in my heart, I was doing what was best. I was trying to take care of my family but I wasn’t taking care of myself at all and it just got to the point where it was counter-productive. It’s still a risk. I guess if we let it, this business could become cumbersome. As we watch our business grow every year, make sure that business doesn’t overtake the enjoyment. To do that, I have to get out and paddle by myself or with buddies. Get out and decompress.”
The therapeutic nature of the water brought them back to the present and forced them to enjoy themselves and enjoy life a little more. Every day, it Bill and Michelle them remember who they are in the grand scheme of things and find the energy required to raise five kids but more than anything, it helped them to find who they really are.
“When I get on the water, it’s like a sacred space for me. Being on the water paddling, alone or with people, it’s so cathartic, I feel so connected. Whatever it is that makes you feel like being on water is for me. Wether it is riding bikes, working on cars, knitting, figure out what it is for you and do it. Find out where that special place is for you so you can feel connected. Paddling, among other things fills the void for me and allows me to connect and feel engaged. Whatever makes you feel like that, go out and do it. Unplug from the digital distractions and go find who you really are.”