Big Wave Dave Reidenbach effortlessly glided through a clear pool of water in his scuba gear and explored new surroundings.
Hawaii? Lake Michigan? Aruba?
No, Big Wave Dave, as most people call him, was navigating the shallow waters of a tank at the Kansas City Boat and Sportshow.
“The water is 89 degrees,” he said. “And it’s shallow — 4 feet deep.
“This is a great place to introduce people to scuba diving. We can’t take them to some tropical location, but this is the next best thing.”
Maybe that’s what the Boat and Sportshow is all about — giving visitors a taste of what they dream about doing in the spring and summer in the midst of winter.
Taking a dive
Only moments into the Boat and Sportshow, Big Wave Dave was conducting part of an interview in the most unlikely of spots — underwater.
As air bubbles from his tank bubbled to the surface, he paddled over to a submerged camera monitor and began talking about his Be A Diver program. Landlubbers could look onto the screen of a laptop and hear his pitch.
“Our goal is to introduce people to diving in a non-intimidating setting,” Reidenbach said of the BeADiver.com program. “We go to these sports shows and let total beginners try it out.
“We furnish the equipment, the instruction, the water, everything. Because the water is only 4 feet deep, they can stand if they start to feel uncomfortable.
“We make it easy for them.”
That’s what Big Wave Dave and representatives from three Kansas City-area businesses — the Dive Shop, TD Scuba and Frogman Scuba — have been doing during the Sportshow, which opened Thursday and will continue through today.
They take beginners and coax them to try something they had always wanted to do.
Reidenbach remembers the day he was in that situation. As a youngster, he had watched Lloyd Bridges and Jacques Cousteau on television and dreamed of one day being in that underwater world. When he was 14, the Explorer post of which Reidenbach was a member took an outing to a clear-water lake in Wisconsin.
He was fascinated by what was beneath the surface. And he has been diving ever since. He has explored the Mediterranean, Hawaii, New Guinea, the Phillipines, and many other breath-taking locations. His favorite? Bonaire, near Aruba.
“There, the reef starts right at the shore, so you don’t have to go out very far to get into good places to explore,” he said.
Jeff Sartain is a Missouri surfer.
No, not a guy who travels to the coasts to catch a big wave. He surfs in Missouri.
We’re not joking. Each week in the summer, he and friends take out the Tige ski boats they sell out of a dealership at Lake of the Ozarks and they surf in the wake put out by those boats.
“You don’t use a rope,” said Sartain, who is a salesman and instructor for Performance Marine Watersports, one of the exhibitors at the Boat and Sportshow. “You’re close behind the boat and the push of the waves let you keep up.
“Some people say it looks dangerous, being that close to the boat. But these boats have inboard motors and their props are way up under the frame.
“There’s no chance of you going under the boat that far. You’re back there, surfing and doing tricks, and having a great time.”
Sartain is part of a new craze at Lake of the Ozarks. Wake surfing behind one of the colorful specialty boats is the latest thing, Sartain said. As he talked, he was in the middle of a display of bright-colored specialty boats, some of which cost more than $100,000.
Sartain got his start years ago with wake boarding, where riders hold onto a ski rope and ride a board to perform tricks such as jumps, spins and grabs. As that became popular, wake surfing caught on, and many riders turned to that.
Today, there are national competitions in both pursuits in which boarders display a variety of tricks. Sartain competes, but he also gives lessons to teach others how to feel comfortable on a board.
“I love it,” said Sartain, who lives in Camdenton, Mo. “You’re always trying to come up with some new trick that will really get attention.”
At home in the wilderness
When Harald Lohn worked for the state of Maryland, he was not much of a fisherman. He’d wet a line a couple times a year, but that was it.
“There’s no way I would get in the car and drive 400 miles to go fishing,” he said.
But that lifestyle changed when Lohn’s cousin invited him to go fishing at his KaBeeLo Lodge in northwest Ontario.
“It was absolutely beautiful,” said Lohn, 71. “It was everything I could possibly dream of.
“We caught fish, but it was the beauty of the country that fascinated me.”
So much so that Lohn bought the place when his cousin put it up for sale. That was 33 years ago, and Lohn has never regretted his decision.
Today, he operates a remote fishing lodge that flies fishermen out to 13 outpost lakes. Photos of the living quarters that Lohn displays at the Sportshow reveal that customers aren’t exactly roughing it when they travel there.
But it’s not the accommodations that hook the customers. It’s the fishing.
Lohn calls the walleye and northern pike fishing at those lakes “unbeatable.”
“If conditions are good and you don’t catch 100 fish a day, something’s wrong,” he said. “Either you’ve overslept, you don’t have a boat or you’re drunk.”
Lohn and his wife live on Confederation Lake for six months a year. You’d think Lohn would build up plenty of personal fish stories in that length of stay. Not so.
“I’m so busy running the place that I only get to fish a couple of days each year,” he said. “My job is to see that others catch fish.”
Lohn paused and turned to a picture displayed in his booth showing the beauty of a Canadian sunset.
“When this is your office, you’ve got a great job.” he said.
To reach outdoors editor Brent Frazee, call 816-234-4319 or send email to email@example.com.