People often ask Annie Nagel how scary it is to be on the water in her kayak with the threat of great white sharks below. They don't know that driving to and from her launches is the scariest part for her.
On her 18th birthday, a high-speed car accident changed Annie's life. She managed to walk away mostly unscathed despite flipping the car end over end and rolling sideways several times. It forced her to realize how short life is and how quickly and unexpectedly it can end, and she became determined to make the most out of hers.
After the accident, she was left with a strong tolerance to adrenaline. Annie had been quite active and competitive in her youth, but nothing she used to do could elicit a rush in her anymore. Then, months after the accident, her boyfriend took her fishing. Reeling in her first active rainbow trout gave Annie the thrill she'd been missing. It didn't take long before the water was where she wanted to be all the time.
Now, the Sonoma, California, resident is a top competitor and fisher who has landed over 100 species of fish. The champion of the 2017 Crabfest kayak fishing tournament, she's been featured on Angler West and hosts the Scales in My Nails Challenge aimed at getting more women on the water. Over the years, she's also sought her kayak for the peace that it offers.
Out on her 13-foot vessel with only the essentials, Annie focuses on what's in front of her. It allows her to be in the moment and leave any worries behind on land. An active meditation, as she calls it. Sitting low in the water and having such a pure connection with nature pulls her into the present moment, the calm before the chaos of hooking a fish. It's a process that has taught Annie a lot about herself, her strengths, weaknesses, and capabilities. It has also given her self-reliance and independence.
She's drawn to the unpredictability of the ocean and the vulnerability of knowing it can change at any moment, becoming dangerous. Knowing her limits is essential. "A lot can happen when you're on the water; you have to be ready to self-rescue if you fall in," she says. But the risk is worth the reward when all is said and done.
Passionate about cooking and eating, being able to take her catch from ocean to table is one of the many joys of the sport for Annie. "There's nothing like it," she says. Serving her freshly caught and prepared fish to friends and family lets her share this special connection to nature.
Kayak fishing has captured her spirit and challenged her physically and mentally, but, more than anything, it saved her life. "Live beyond land to me means taking adventures to find where you truly belong," she says. "I found my happy place, and luckily for me, it covers about 70% of our planet."
Learn more about Annie Nagel